essays

Where? Why? How? When?

Bear with me. I am now going to tell you a long, circuitous story with no clear ending. It’s about becoming “a writer.”

It was right around my 45th birthday (April 2008), that one of my BFFs took me for a birthday tarot reading with a guy named Howard, who studied the cards he laid out for me and said, “Your job is soul-destroying.”

“Why yes, Howard,” I said, trying not to laugh. “It IS.”

Afterwards my friend asked me what I’d do if I left my career. A surprising answer bubbled up. “Well, I always thought I might write my memoir.” I think I first discarded that thought in college, but a few decades later I shrugged and thought, “Why not?”

I pulled my journals from their storage bin, transcribed excerpts and cobbled together a narrative, finishing the first draft on July 4, 2008.

When I shared this draft with a couple of journalist friends, they were kind, but it was clear my manuscript had a long way to go. I tried a revision, but work got busy in 2009 and I put my manuscript in a drawer. For almost nine years.

In 2013 I finally left my soul-destroying job, went to coaching school, set up a business and started a blog called Advice for PR Girls, mostly because it was fun.

In April 2017, that same BFF who took me to the tarot reading came to my birthday tea with a work memoir/professional advice book and said, “You could write a much better book than this. Why aren’t you writing a book?”

Ugh. Challenge accepted! I spent September- December 2017 stitching together stuff from the blog with the memoir draft from 2008. I shared the result with three friends. Again, no one dug it. I did not know what to do.

In January 2018 a colleague of mine mentioned a writing coach she knew. Maybe she could help! I reached out and she asked to read the original memoir, the collection of blog posts and the stitched-together manuscript.

She came back and wanted me to rewrite the OG 2008 memoir, but she wanted me to start with a blank page, not editing but rewriting from scratch. I felt like I was drowning when she said it, but somehow I knew the only way out was through, so I started.

In 2018, she and I worked through five revisions on the new memoir manuscript. I finally thought I had something. I had climbed the mountain and come down the other side. I thought I’d be able to rest and reap rewards.

Not quite! I went to a writers conference where I learned that first-time memoirists are about the least-desired writer population alive. If I wanted anyone to read my memoir, I’d either need to be extremely famous like LeBron James or build my own audience by writing and sharing personal essays.

In January 2019 I took a personal essay writing class at the San Francisco Writers Grotto. In the Lyft home from the first class I freaked out because I realized I knew nothing. But still, when you’re going through hell you keep going. So I knuckled down, learned the form, read a ton of essays and memoirs and wrote a long personal essay – a distillation of the major emotional and spiritual themes from my memoir. I pitched it in the spring to a journal.

In August 2019, that journal accepted my piece. I cried when I read the email. It was the first time a journal had accepted my work. However, they had a backlog of personal essays. About a year later I checked in and found they’d changed editors, but they did still want to publish my piece. The Complementarity Principle was published in May 2021, only 13 years after I wrote that first memoir draft.

The Complementarity Principle getting published may be the end of one story, but I hope it’s the middle of another. I have no idea what to hope for with my writing. I wrote a dozen essays in 2019, and another 11 and a short story in 2020. I’ve submitted to 145 journals in two years. I’ve had a handful of pieces published. It feels miraculous every time I get an acceptance email.

Maybe, someday, more of my work will be published, maybe even a collection of essays, maybe something else. In 2021 I’m rewriting the memoir as a novel. Fiction is a terrifying leap! Do I know what to hope for with this new project? Absolutely not. The only thing I do know about writing is that I am supposed to just keep going.

I have no idea why I’m doing this. But I guess that’s the whole point of a leap of faith. You leap. You can’t see the other side!

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About Lisa

Lisa Poulson is a voice in favor of the complex beauty of female power, the descendant of fiercely resilient Mormon pioneers and a woman who survived the death of her fiancé four months before their wedding. Lisa lives in San Francisco, where she spends her time absorbing and creating as much beauty as possible.

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Lisa Poulson is the legal copyright holder of this blog. Contents may not be used, reprinted, or published without written consent.

About Lisa

Lisa Poulson is a voice in favor of the complex beauty of female power, the descendant of fiercely resilient Mormon pioneers and a woman who survived the death of her fiancé four months before their wedding. Lisa lives in San Francisco, where she spends her time absorbing and creating as much beauty as possible.

Join the conversation on Instagram!

Reminder

You are reading of your own will and choice. How you read, act on or don’t act on what you read here is up to you.

Reassurance

While lisapoulson.com does use cookies, which helps us understand how you engage with our site and where you’re from, we do NOT save your personal information - like e-mail, name or address. And, if you join our mailing list or comment on a post, we will not share (or sell) your contact information. We are not responsible for commenters or other third parties here.

Clarity

Lisa Poulson is the legal copyright holder of this blog. Contents may not be used, reprinted, or published without written consent.