Two Cats, Second Person

“My young friend,”I said, “if you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.”
Aldous Huxley

So how this writing thing is going is that I get up, I take care of my two cats, I make tea, I look at the 46-item outline, I scan the list, feel the calling, and write about that one.

Cat waves on an ocean bed

It feels very strange to write from my year-two person to my day-one person in second person. “You felt this. You thought that.” So very odd.

But it’s giving me a way in that I’m not sure I would have if I were writing in first person. Something about, “I felt,” snarls me with tangled grief and uncertainty.

So far, every morning I have a book-writing session, I cry. I had no idea of the sorrow I felt, the anguish I was in when I quit. From two years out, I feel very sorry for myself and in the very best way. I feel such compassion for my suffering self. My words to her are so clear, so kind, so understanding. I see nothing to judge her on, scold her about, reprimand her for. Nothing. She was a mess. And there were and are reasons.

I am mindful of Dr. H.’s caution that I do not re-traumatize myself by writing this story. After two hard mornings in a row, I took the next morning off. When I feel I’ve done all I can, I look at the word count. If it’s over 600, I quit. No rereading, no editing.

I have thought I was writing from deep within for my blog, more deeply in personal emails. This writing is deeper still, more intimate, with no eyes upon it but mine. Although I feel deep in earth as I remember and cry, I find myself feeling paradoxically refreshed afterwards, as if I am standing upright, breathing in curlicues of air. So far, I am okay.

. . . . .

To share my process: I’m attempting to write a memoir of the past seven years, my first two years of abstinence from alcohol and the preceding five years of drinking. I’ve written a draft of the preface here.

I’m shooting for 75,000 words, a pretty standard length for a memoir. I’m giving myself 6 months, no more, no less. I figure if I write 5 days per week, 25 weeks, about 600 words each of those days, about 3000 words per week, I’ll have it. My outline currently has 46 sections, so that would be a limit of an average of 1630 words for each section. However, I see some sections being 100 words long and others being 5000.

I started the above regimen on Monday, January 5, 2015. So far, I’m behind on 5 days per week, but ahead of 3000 words per week.

I’m finding I can’t write a book and a blog and emails, so if you don’t hear from my via blog or email, my words are in the book.

I am so grateful for the wonderful support I am receiving for this effort from family, friends and those who share comments, and particularly from Sarah Beth Jones, Dan Smith, Laurel Sindewald, Alex Edelman, and my father, Robert Giles.

Microsoft Word reports I wrote 1047 words this morning. I am done writing for the day.


  1. Go, Anne, go!

  2. Thank you for sharing your process and your feelings. I admire your strength and your willingness to be vulnerable in equal measure. So glad you’re taking care of yourself and the kitties. Love to you all.