In February 2016, I decided that the way to continue writing, to be motivated and to not give up when things got tough, was to find a group of writers who were doing a similar project to myself.
I have been part of writing groups that have been most helpful in critiquing technique. But for longer pieces? This was always a problem. No-one had the time or commitment to stick with me for a year while I battled my way through the swampy murk of a memoir.
But I remembered a friend who wrote brilliant pieces about when she had been ill (and almost died) - how had she made those so funny?
And then there was a writing pal who was a Buddhist, with the ability to tell the story of her journey so clearly that it made me want to cry.
Finally, there was someone who was writing a book exploring issues around trauma and memory, and how these issues have been dealt with by the media since the 1990s.
I felt like I was assembling the A-Team. I sent the invitations. Everyone said YES. We called the group AYOW (A Year of Writing). For a year, we met monthly, each of us a chapter further in the book we were attempting to create. The project stretched beyond a year. 18 months later we are, I suppose, AYOW 2.
We continue to write.
One of us has completed her book and is embarking on the rewrite. Her rewritten first chapter that we read tonight was so polished, that I felt that I held the real book in my hand - I could almost smell the paper and feel the smooth finish of the dust jacket in my hand.
Since February 2016, we have written loads, discarded much, haggled, argued, debated and laughed at the craziness of how life is truly stranger than art, but isn't art brilliant way to share it! We have 3 memoirs and 1 novel inching their way to the finish line. Ours are stories told by the tortoise, not the hare, believe me.
In April this year we went on a writing retreat together. We wrote, walked, cooked wrote more and shared our pieces. We did yoga, we drank and we came back energised and ready to face AYOW2.
I know the job of a writer is a solitary one. But my pals in AYOW have meant that it has not been lonely or without encouragement.
Thanks Fiona Montgomery, Joyce Ito, Vidya Henderson.