No! Wait! The blogosphere did not stop spinning! Today on WFW I’m thrilled to have Sara DiVello talk about why she chose non-fiction over fiction. In my case, I always knew I’d write, be a writer, author, editor. But I always assumed I’d work in the world of non-fiction. After all that was my background and until 2007, that’s all I’d ever done, except for childhood or school-mandated short stories. Then everything changed. And who am I kidding, blogging and essay writing keep me steeped in creative non-fiction, as well as fiction. Just one of the reasons Sara’s story was so interesting to me. Plus, I’ve always wanted to try yoga (except I get dizzy when I’m upside down).
Please welcome Sara DiVello to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Why I Chose to Write Non-Fiction And Teach Yoga
by Sara DiVello
I always knew I wanted to write. And without really thinking about it, I just assumed I would write fiction—women-focused fiction to be precise. That’s what I loved to read. That’s what I most identified with. It was a no-brainer.
But at some indefinable moment, I realized I had a lot of…how shall I say, too-freaking-crazy-to-make-up stories because apparently I possess a crazy-magnet. By which I mean that any unusual, off-beat, or down-right crazy folks in my vicinity will almost always come sit next to me, talk to me, or otherwise seek me out—and, unfortunately, sometimes offer me employment. As a result, I had, over the course of years, accumulated some really-funny-yet-true stories of corporate hijinks while I was working in the fast-paced world of high finance: female bosses that made half-million dollar salaries but got staggeringly drunk and puked at client presentations, male bosses who yelled at me for openly telling the truth at internal meetings (apparently itself a crime in the corporate world), and male colleagues who had their million-dollar bonuses docked, but still remained employed, even after sending emails detailing their sexual fantasies (apparently involving a horse), not to mention a gentleman who referred to himself in the third person as “The Meat.”
Then there were the yoga people I encountered after I enrolled in yoga-teacher training as an escape from my career. I quickly discovered the yogis were just as crazy, but in slightly different ways. They took “yoga names” and often swore off showering and shaving, but talked regularly and enthusiastically about their inner essence as they vigorously massaged various body parts and munched on raw, cruciferous vegetables.
Four years ago, I sat down to start writing a novel, but I realized I had to tell this story first—not only because of the entertaining parts, but also because the main themes felt like something that people could relate to—feeling stuck in a career but powerless to do anything about it, or unsure of what else to do, or really scared of the unknown or dramatic change.
I wanted to talk about career and identity and grapple with questions like, What am I doing with my life? Am I doing what I feel in my bones I am meant to do—what I really, really want to do? Or am I doing what I’m doing because it’s expected of me and I’m good at it? My career transition, as told through “OM,” naturally provided the framework to talk about these questions, as well as other topics I’m passionate about such as how women interact and treat one another in the workplace. I found the incongruity of the strength and loyalty of female friendships in the personal realm contrasted with the snarky undercutting and backstabbing that I saw and experienced in the corporate world fascinating.
It was then that I wondered if maybe, sometimes, the story doesn’t choose its teller. I guess I won’t know until I try to write a second book (fiction next time!). But that’s how I found myself writing a memoir that I never intended to write.
The Scary but Comforting Factor of Non-Fiction
The scariest part of writing a memoir is the inherent additional levels of vulnerability. It seems terrifying enough to put yourself out there as an author of fiction, presenting your hard work to the world for judgment, review, and critique. But putting your hard work out there when the story is also a true one about you, and your career, your marriage, and your life feels even more intimidating.
Was I terrified? Yes, absolutely. But at the same time, I remember how comforted I’ve been when other authors have admitted their vulnerabilities, fears, weaknesses, insecurities, or less-than-perfect lives. Not because we glory in others’ struggles or hardships or rejections, but because it’s good to know (for sure—not just internal conjecture) that you’re not alone and, in fact, that you’re in excellent company. It’s comforting. It’s validating. You think, “Oh, thank goodness!” and then maybe you even get a little teary from the sheer relief of knowing that you’re not the only one. And then you have some chocolate or wine (or both!) and suddenly everything’s a whole lot better.
I find that the weight of living up to expectations and holding up appearances—both professionally and personally—is not only exhausting, but also ultimately alienating and lonely.
Women’s Fiction Writers is my favorite blog. I love to “meet” all these amazing writers. I love the positive energy and support (which I learned in the corporate world is directly attributable to leadership—Amy, take a bow), and I love hearing about each person’s path to publication. When an author shares—generously and openly—about her struggles, rejections, or messy house, I instantly feel a kinship with her. I appreciate her bravery and I want to celebrate her success with every bit as much happiness and support as if it were my own. I bet a lot of you feel the same.
As I see it, reading—and writing—memoirs is the same premise. I’m sharing my struggles as well as a lot of awesomely awkward hilarity, and if reading about my path to finding a fulfilling career and some degree of inner peace helps someone else on her journey, lets her know I had bad bosses and colleagues too, or maybe just brings her a few really good belly laughs along the way, then I am a very happy writer.
OK, I’m also a yoga teacher. So you’re probably expecting some sort of yoga ninja secrets…and, well, I aim to please!
Here are my best yoga moves for the Weary/Stressed Writer:
The jaw, neck, and shoulders are the first places in your body to hold and accumulate stress. When you’re stressed, you clench the jaw and tense up in the neck-shoulder-upper back area, which I’ve affectionately name the “tri-plex of stress-holding doom.” Here are two simple yoga tools you can use to help unclench, release, and relax the tri-plex. If you’re in a public setting and can’t do something flagrantly yoga-letic, try utilizing the “fire point”: Press the tip of your tongue to the little mound right behind your top two front teeth. You’ll feel your jaw and neck relax, your whole face melt, and your shoulders drop and release.
If you CAN do something more obvious, start with the Fire Point and then give modified Eagle Pose a try: Extend your arms in front of you, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for the shoulders/upper back, stay here. If you need more of s stretch, drop the left elbow below the right and twine the forearms, pressing the back of the palms together (or, flexibility permitting, the fingers of your left hand pressed into your right palm). The key to releasing the upper back muscles is to keep the elbows lifted–equal height to the shoulders–and the shoulders as relaxed and low as possible. Take a few deep breaths and switch sides.
And if these moves aren’t enough, you can always come to my class!
Sara DiVello worked in PR and marketing for thirteen years before realizing she preferred yoga mats and bare feet to cubicles and high heels. A graduate of Arcadia University, Sara teaches yoga and lives in Boston with her husband and their eleven-pound rescue mutt, Peluda. Learn more at www.saradivello.com or connect on social media:
Sara DiVello’s debut memoir, Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat (June 2013) has been selected by Shape Magazine as one of the 12 books to bring to the beach this summer and by Working Mother Magazine as one of the eight memoirs to read this year.
“OM” chronicles Sara’s transition from working in financial services to teaching yoga and all the crazy/weird/hilarious characters in both worlds. For an inside look at the book, check out Sara’s brand-new book trailer: