LET’S TALK WRITING #10 with author, Dr. Gulara Vincent

LET’S TALK WRITING #10 with author, Dr. Gulara Vincent

 

Why and How I Write

14468769_1797215643826952_285273254965652401_oI write because writing helps me to make sense of my life. Putting past events and traumas outside of myself allowed me to see my life with more clarity and to have more compassion for other people too. If before I saw only my side of the story, writing helped me to tap into the perspective of other people.

When I started writing, I had masses of resistance to it. I had a lot of sexual trauma in the past, which I kept hidden from everyone. For many years I was convinced that my life depended on keeping my past secret. Writing a book which involved unravelling what’s been hidden for so long was painful to say the least.

I remember having a self-imposed writing retreat for 10 days before I started working with Barbara Turner-Vesselago, my writing mentor, in June 2012. I wanted to write down the worst memories and events of my life so that they didn’t come up when I worked with Barbara. So much shame was attached to those events that the thought of being exposed felt unbearable. Yet my soul wanted me to write. It was not negotiable.

Writing now feels as natural as breathing. When I’m in my writing flow, I feel as if I am possessed (in a good way). I pray there are no interruptions and writing is akin to channelling information: it’s as if something writes through me. I just need to sit still in front of my laptop and allow the words to pour out. I don’t pause to re-read or negotiate every word. In those moments, I’m falling into the unknown, and don’t know where the story may take me.

In the beginning of my journey, writing brought up all my insecurities: fear of failure, self-doubts, ‘not good enough’ and ‘not-qualified-enough’ stories – the list went on and on. Every time I received ‘constructive’ criticism from my mentor or fellow writers, my inner critic showed its ugly head as if to say ‘I told you so.’

Although I seek feedback from more experienced writers, it can often knock me off the track for a while. What helps me to get up and keep going is the desire to share my story. It’s a powerful story, and has the potential to inspire change in other people’s lives. That’s why I’m so passionate about telling it well, even at the expense of delaying its release date.

My writing process depends on what I write. For the first three years of my writing I worked with Barbara, who taught me how to ‘free-fall’. Every month I submitted two 12-page pieces to her. That’s 36 pieces of around 4,000 words each. I once calculated that they came up to something like 300,000+ words. Some of those words needed to be written to clear the way for more important ones to come through; others are good enough to be included in my book(s).

The process of ‘free-falling’ was tortuous at first. I’m trained as a lawyer and for many years I wouldn’t commit a single word to paper before I knew what the entire article was about. With free-falling, I had to do the exact opposite. It required unlearning the ways in which I used to write and trusting that the right piece will emerge if only I’m willing to sit still and wait with a pounding heart for words to fly from under my fingers. What’s beautiful about that process though is that some of the memories that came up were not the ones I’d consciously choose. Yet they make a powerful narrative and enrich my book.

With blog posts, the process is less complicated. I still free-fall, but more intentionally. When I started blogging, I wrote what inspired me on the day. In the last few months, I’ve become much clearer on the purpose of my blogging, and my primary focus now is sharing my writing journey with others, with the hope that I can support other writers. Because my blogging is more focused now, I don’t wait for the ‘right moment’. In fact, just today I wrote the first draft of the next five blog posts.

It’s no exaggeration to say that writing has changed my life. I’ve got to know myself better, became relatively comfortable with sharing my story, and fostered connections across the world. Above all, I feel whole again, because I’ve taken the chance to give voice to parts which were hidden for so long.

© Dr. Gulara Vincent

Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, university law lecturer and a Momentum Mentor for Writers. Her book proposal was a winner in the 2014 and 2015 Transformational Author Experience Writing Contest in the USA, and longlisted for the TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition 2016. When not writing or teaching, she helps women writers to release their inner fears and emotional blocks so that they can have a successful writing career. You can connect with her on her website, or on Facebook and Twitter @gulara_vincent.

YOUR RESPONSES to Dr. Gulara Vincent’s views on writing are wanted and appreciated. Please post your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below this post. And thanks for contributing to the success of this column. 

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23 thoughts on “LET’S TALK WRITING #10 with author, Dr. Gulara Vincent

  1. Barbara Studham

    November 30, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your views on writing. I can identify with so much of what you say. Often the “shame” we feel over our life experiences comes from the judgement of others who lack understanding or compassion. That is one reason why more people need to write or speak up about their life’s struggles, then experiences are shared and more likely to be understood.

    • Gulara

      December 1, 2016

      Barbara, thank you so much for reading. I admire your courage to share your stories and they had so much impact on other people’s lives. You are an inspiration. I love what you say about how voicing our stories make experiences shared and more likely to be understood. That’s a gem. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. Jan Selbourne

    November 30, 2016

    I too, can relate to what you say, Gulara. It is very hard to get past the ‘not good enough’ ‘I’ll fail,” “I’ll make a fool of myself,” and “I knew I’d fail.” Its hard at first to let the words flow freely. Thank you for sharing your story, it is inspiring.

    • Gulara

      December 1, 2016

      Thank you for reading, Jan, and your kind words. Yes, it can be hard to get past the inner critic, but there are many ways to let go of that voice. I wrote a post about that ‘voice’ recently, if you are interested. https://www.gularavincent.com/does-a-not-good-enough-story-hold-you-back-in-life/
      The truth is that voice was there long before I started writing. It just writing brings it out more strongly. Lovely to connect.

  3. Kathleen hewitt

    November 30, 2016

    I like the “free fall” idea. I know that to write, or ‘free write’ loosens the joints. “Free fall” makes me think of making a greater commitment to it. When I write what I know, what I feel, I have words falling into the page. Thanks for your post💪

    • Gulara

      December 1, 2016

      Kathleen, thank you for your kind comment. Yes, freefall does have a different energy to free-writing. My mentor, Barbara Turner-Vesselago published two books on the art of free-falling. It’s more intentional and has power to take you deeper into the memory than free-writing. It’s lovely to connect here. Thanks again for reading my post.

  4. Sandy Richards

    November 30, 2016

    Loved your article! The thought of “free-falling” scares me to pieces…it’s the letting go that gets me. I can certainly see how it would be beneficial and plan on giving it a try. That pesky inner critic needs to go on a long vacation! Thank you for sharing Gulara. 👍

    • Gulara

      December 2, 2016

      Sandy, thank you so much for reading. Yes, free-falling can be scary. I’m trained as a lawyer and for years, I wouldn’t commit a single word on paper unless I knew exactly what I want to say. Free-falling made me unlearn this practice. It can be done. And when I truly free-fall, magic happens. Those pieces where I let go and didn’t know what may emerge are by far the best.
      As to inner critic, it’s there for a reason. Believe it or not, it’s intention is positive (to protect you from criticism, disappointment, rejection, etc.). The end result is of course not so positive. But there are ways to get around that. I do a lot of healing work and guided meditations to help with this, so feel free to join my mailing list to receive those in the future. https://www.gularavincent.com/subscribe-gularas-newsletter/
      Again, many thanks for commenting.

  5. Gulara

    December 1, 2016

    Kathleen, thank you for your kind comment. Yes, freefall does have a different energy to free-writing. My mentor, Barbara Turner-Vesselago published two books on the art of free-falling. It’s more intentional and has power to take you deeper into the memory than free-writing. It’s lovely to connect here. Thanks again for reading my post.

  6. Norah Colvin

    December 1, 2016

    Fascinating post. I love the idea of freefalling into writing. It sounds a little like stream of consciousness, but I much prefer the title. Freefalling seems as if it allows things to arise from the subconscious. It’s important to know why you write. That can give your writing direction. But things like freefalling must provide different perspectives at times, and surprise awakenings. Thanks for sharing your difficult journey. It is inspirational.

    • Gulara

      December 2, 2016

      Thank you for reading and your kind comment, Norah. Yes, free-fall definitely brings out stuff I have not consciously thought about and that what makes the end product, as well as the process of writing so exciting. You just never know where the writing may take you. My mentor wrote two books on the art of free-falling and there are five simple precepts: write what’s here, explore the sensual detail, go fear-ward, write what’s well composted (happened at least 10 years ago), and the most important one – do not edit while writing. Again, many thanks for stopping by, Norah. I appreciate your support.

  7. Gwynn Rogers

    December 1, 2016

    Gulara, I’m fascinated about the idea of “free-falling.” I’m not exactly sure how you go about writing like this. As you know, I started writing because of the trauma I experienced from my mother’s five years of strokes. Also, I have always felt that I needed to write about my brother’s highly-packed, but short life. Then I realized that I didn’t have sufficient information about his years past childhood. I don’t think you have read my story “Acceptance” it is in my family section of my blog. It is an older story. I feel I have a lot to put down, but as I age I’m remembering less and less. I do so admire the work that you have done and your stories. I would like to learn more.

    • Viga Boland

      December 1, 2016

      I’m sure that Gulara will be able to guide you through this process Gwynn. Also, if Gulara doesn’t mind my suggesting it, you might like to pick up a copy of my book on memoir writing, just released this year, titled “Don’t Write Your MEmoir without ME!” I have written 4 memoirs, 3 of which touch on the very sensitive and traumatic subject of child sexual abuse (my own) and I have been mentoring live workshops for those who wish to write memoir at my local library for over 3 years now. Gulara is a member of my Facebook group for memoir writers, “Memoirabilia” and you are most welcome to join us there. I also maintain a Memoirabilia website at http://www.memoirabilia.ca from which I will be podcasting the book mentioned here beginning in January 2017. The book is available directly from my author’s website at http://www.vigaboland.com/store in both softcover and all digital formats. This book is highly motivational and a great way to get started with free-writing your memoir to go deep as Gulara suggests, by putting the ME into your memoir…which is my way of “going deep”.

      • Gwynn Rogers

        December 1, 2016

        Viga, I am most interested in your Memoir group on Facebook, but I could not find it. Maybe you can find me easier. Is your book only available online and not through Barnes and Nobles here in the states? I don’t have a digital player so I would be interested in your softcover format. What is the cost? I’ll go look at your store site.

        It is interesting that you mentioned the ME in Memoir as even though I wanted to write about my brother, I’m realizing I WAS a part of his life. My brother was an extremely interesting character. He was Gay and became a Buddhist monk. He went to India with his Lama and the Dalai Lama. He picked up three parasites there, so between the parasites and his being HIV positive, that is what killed him. There is WAY more to his story. As I told Gulara, you can read more about my brother at my blog: in my Family Section, and the story is called “Acceptance”. It is an older story. Thank you for your information and I would like to join your group, provided I can find you.

    • Gulara

      December 2, 2016

      Thank you so much for your kind comment, Gwynn. With free-fall, I think the unconscious reveals what’s ripe and ready. The idea is to start with what’s here right now. Often it can be overwhelming to think of writing a whole book. But if there’s a strong memory, you could start there, and then let it take you to the next thing. This way, the book can write itself up. I wrote a post about free-fall a while ago. Perhaps it may give you some ideas. And of course, I’m always on my blog if there’s anything specific you’d like to explore. Many thanks for reading and commenting. https://www.gularavincent.com/2016/03/18/how-i-wrote-300000-words/

  8. evelyne holingue

    December 1, 2016

    Great to read you here. Gulara. I share your opinion about the freedom that writing offers. Happy for you that putting your hard past into words has helped you see the light and feel more at ease with yourself. See you on your blog soon.

    • Gulara

      December 2, 2016

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Evelyne, and for all your kind support. Yes, writing is liberating, and so rewarding, especially because it allowed me to connect with so many amazing people. I’ll be popping around your blog soon. Have a lovely w/e.

  9. susan scott

    December 4, 2016

    Beautiful post Gulara thank you. The idea of free fall reminds me of people who are afraid of anaesthetics and when I ask them why they say because then they’re not in control. My next question would be (tho I don’t ask it) what do you think may/could/will happen when you are not in control? Free-fall reminds me of this … not so much allowing another to be in control, but to permit an other voice, one’s own, to be heard and putting aside the inner critic. Letting the unconscious speak …
    And thank you to Viga too …

    • Gulara

      December 7, 2016

      You put it so beautifully, Susan. Thank for reading and your thoughtful comment. I guess fear of the unknown and the illusion of control we have over life goes beyond the writing process. It was life-changing to start unravelling that process and having visceral experience of what happens when we allow life to move through us. It’s magic, and for me it’s like training a muscle. Fear arises, I resist, eventually when I surrender I feel blown away by the beauty of it. Then it starts all over again. 🙂 Many thanks.

  10. Cheryl B. Evans

    December 14, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts around writing, I really enjoyed reading your piece. I too love the idea of “free falling”. Sometime I think as writers we can be too stiff, too serious when we work. Being more free falling is a great way to think of it.

  11. Heidi Love

    October 5, 2017

    This is a powerful piece. I’ve read it three times—thanks. While I can get absorbed in my writing, I also take immense pleasure in being out in the world, living in far-off places, connecting with people who have very different lives then me, volunteering, adventuring in ways most people would shy away from. (For example I just sailed 13,000 nm from Maine, US to French Polynesia; it was a huge challenge that did not allow me to write much.) When I get stuck in my writing I often question what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, what I might do if I had only a year to live. While a part of me wants my story/memoir to be beautiful, and to inspire others, another feels like she’s being robbed of life. It can be a struggle. Have either of you ever felt this way? Do you feel like you’re being present in your life when you write? Do you have any suggestions on balancing writing and living when you aren’t writing? Thanks so much.

    • Viga Boland

      October 15, 2017

      Hello Heidi. My apologies for taking so long to respond. You caught me at a very busy time and I had no time to even come into this site…obvious from the lack of new content in past 2 weeks. I suspect the same may be true of Gulara who wrote this piece. Thanks for joining us on the Memoirabilia site by the way and welcome. I’m sure the problem you are having balancing your social and career life with your writer’s life affects 99% of us who write. Some of us end up putting off that book that’s just begging to be written until we are retired. That’s what I was forced to do. But once I had that time, I went on to churn out 6 books in 4 years. That was making up for lost time LOL. But throughout my life, even when working and raising two children, I still found a hour here and there to indulge my creative side in a poem or short story or article. So I don’t think one has to sacrifice either side of our life to write. Consider those younger, working years a chance to accumulate tons of memories and experiences to record later when we can give them our full attention. At least that’s how I see it. I’ll write to Gulara and see if she can respond on here for you too.

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