Monday, September 17, 2018


"After a failed suicide attempt, author Hedley Derenzie decided rather than escaping life, she would write her way through it, every day for the next thirty-one days..." I'm so pleased and honored to be able to share Hedley's book with you this week at Writing Belle. We connected because of the author program here, and after doing some research into her book, Write Way Home, I can honestly say that I am amazed. It takes a lot of strength to do what she has done, and to share a deeply personal story with the world. Non-fiction is striking to me because there is no fictional characters or situations to hide behind. Non-fiction demands total exposure, and it takes a special person to be able to share tales from their own life in that way. Please check out her contributed article below, the introduction from Write Way Home.

Here is the official synopsis of the book:

What started out as a simple yet challenging exercise soon turned into a life-changing adventure. It became an exploration of the creative process and what it means to find true fulfillment.

Write Way Home is a personal, engaging story about one writer’s quest to navigate her way back from the brink with the help of a daily creative practice. Written in clear and simple language, it offers insights and practical suggestions to anyone who might be feeling stuck or lost and looking for a way out — as in, a way back to life.
Get it on Amazon

Writing My Way Back to a Meaningful Life 
Contributed by Hedley Derenzie

Outside my apartment in the black sky above, a ‘blue moon’ shone amid a dusting of stars. It was the evening of 31st July 2015, five months after the night I attempted to end my life. Not knowing what a blue moon was, I sat up in bed and Googled it, hoping to find some magical and symbolic explanation that would propel into some much-needed action. A blue moon is the second full moon within the calendar month. On a symbolic level, it’s supposed to be a powerful time of transition, an opportunity to make some significant changes. This was good news. I’d been given a second chance at life but since returning home from the hospital, I still wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with it. Perhaps this blue moon would help!
It was a Friday night and, apart from the blue moon, I was spending it like most Friday nights these days – in bed with my head buried in the pages of a book. I did a lot of staying home and reading books during this time as if reading about other people’s lives would help me forget about what I was going to do with mine. On this particular evening, I was deeply engaged in Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book, Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found about her quest to walk 1,100 miles across the Pacific Crest Trail. Personally, I couldn’t imagine willingly choosing to walk across two states on my own, yet her story captivated me.
Cheryl’s journey took approximately three months and, based on her personal account, every ounce of strength, courage, and determination she had to complete it. She was 26 years old at the time and had fallen into an abyss of drug addiction and anonymous sex following the death of her mother, the disintegration of her family and the ending of her marriage. With her life spiralling out of control, her decision to walk the PCT with no training or experience was a kind of self-redemption, a way of ‘walking her way back to the person her mother had raised her to be.’
Something about Cheryl’s remarkable and courageous story spoke to a place deep within me. At thirty-seven years of age, most of my friends were married with kids and getting on with busy lives. I, on the other hand, was at home googling ‘what is a blue moon?’ While I wasn’t engaged in any self-destructive behaviours as Cheryl had been, I wasn’t doing much of anything. I was a writer who wasn’t writing. And since ending my life was no longer an option, my days revolved around doing whatever was necessary to get myself through to the next one. Life had become something of a long, monotonous plod, with the occasional astrological event thrown in for good measure.
            Turning the pages of Cheryl’s story, I could feel something turning inside me. Perhaps I could set myself a challenge? I wondered. Although what that challenge would be was the big question. When you’re feeling stuck and unmotivated, it’s difficult to come up with a challenge that’s going to unstick you and get you motivated again. A part of me couldn’t be bothered, happy to keep reading books about other people overcoming adversity. Yet Cheryl’s story kept nudging me towards action. I needed to do something to lift myself out of the hole I’d fallen into. It needed to be something that would lift my spirits and help me rediscover my passion and purpose for life.
For a second, I contemplated purchasing a backpack and walking across Australia. This idea lasted about a second before I quickly came up with a dozen reasons why this wasn’t an option. For starters, I’m not much of a camper and trekking across Australia on my own doesn’t exactly spell S-A-F-E. Plus, I’m still recovering from my last camping adventure when I ended up in the middle of the Australian desert with a urinary tract infection.
No, I needed to come up with a challenge that was safer and closer to home. Ideally, one that I could complete from the comforts of my bed if necessary. As much I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zones, I didn’t want to push myself too hard or too far. While I had built some emotional resolve over the past five months, I was still fragile. This wasn’t about setting myself up for failure, and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. This needed to be a challenge that would help build my emotional strength and confidence, not destroy it. It had to be hard, but it also needed to be something I could enjoy and even have some fun with. That’s when I had an idea.
It was 11.56 pm, four minutes before a new month would begin when I sat upright in bed and grabbed my notebook. With the blue moon shining above outside, I committed the idea to paper:
I will write two thousand words a day for the next thirty-one days.
            I hadn’t written anything in over year. This is despite writing being the only activity in which I experience complete joy and freedom. I’ve had several careers over the years, but I’ve always been a writer. This would be the perfect challenge, and not just because it meant I could stay in bed if necessary. This would challenge me not only as a person but it would return me to the one thing I love doing more than anything else. I decided to call it 'My Creative Pilgrimage.' Rather than walking, I would write my way back to the person I was and knew myself to be.
            Excitedly, I began listing a set of guidelines to follow during the month. If this was going to be a real challenge, there would need to be real guidelines. Aware of my tendency to bend, stretch and break the rules, especially if they’re my own, I needed to make these guidelines unquestionably clear. There would be no escape routes and no short cuts. I was going to follow through on exactly what I set out to do, and that was to write two thousand words every day for the next thirty-one days. No. Matter. What.  
            The guidelines included starting each day with a twenty-minute meditation. I would then set an intention for the day as this was also something I had stopped doing but which I used to derive great pleasure from doing. Also, it was important that what I wrote was inspired by the day’s events and situations which occurred within each twenty-four-hour period. This challenge was about re-engaging with the present, not the past. Therefore, the writing needed to reflect this. In addition, there was to be no rolling over of words. If I wrote more on one day, I couldn’t then count those extra words the next day. Each day had to stand on its own. The day would finish with the intention of gratitude.
To make the challenge official I signed my name at the bottom of the page. I also posted my intention on Facebook, figuring a public declaration would help keep me accountable should my personal signature fail, which was possible. I have started and abandoned several projects in recent years, so my word, even if it's just with myself, has lost some of its credibility. Having family and friends as my witness would help keep me on track and committed to reaching my destination, especially when things got hard which, they were bound to do.
            This challenge wasn’t so much about the number of words I could write in one day – mind you, two thousand did feel like a lot of words – it was about doing something consistently for thirty-one days. I hadn’t done anything consistently in what seemed like years. As a result, my self-confidence had suffered. Thirty-one days may not seem like a long time but when you’ve lost confidence in yourself and the motivation to get it back, thirty-one days feels like a lifetime. And after the events of that February night, a lifetime was the perfect length of time. Plus, it was also the number of days in August.
It was right at midnight when I closed my notebook and placed it back on the floor beside me. I slid back under the covers, wrapped in a haze of excitement and fatigue and nervousness. Could I do this? It didn’t matter whether or not I could. I had to. In a way, my life depended on it.
            The next morning, I set out on the first day of ‘My Creative Pilgrimage’ and boy, did it turn out to be an adventure. Not in the way I could have predicted, however. The next thirty-one days were unlike anything I could have imagined or had ever experienced to date. Each day was like a voyage into the unknown, an exploration of the concept of creativity and what it means to live a creative life. It was brilliant and beautiful. It was also one of the hardest challenges on which I’ve ever embarked. This project tested me spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically. Especially physically. On reflection, trekking across Australia would probably have been easier!
            I didn’t start this project with the intention of publishing a book. My focus was on following the guidelines and completing the task I had set out for myself. Sometime during the middle of the process, I came up with the title, Write Way Home. I loved this title because it encapsulated what I was doing. I was writing my way ‘home’, back to who I was and wanted to be again. Only after completing the did I decided to turn what I had written into a publishable manuscript. When something has a profound impact on your life, there’s an inherent tendency to want to share it. I wanted to share what I had gained from this process. I wanted people to know that even when you’re at your lowest and most hopeless point, there is another way. It’s the way of creation.
            Turning what I had written into something worth reading was not easy. With no plot or ongoing narrative, my challenge was to bring each day together into something that would be interesting and meaningful for you, the reader. While I wanted to remain faithful to the original diary format, I didn’t want the book to be series of rambling journal entries. Therefore, I’ve taken some liberties and made some changes to the original writing. Each day stands alone as a chapter. While I gained many daily insights, at the end of each chapter I've included one central idea that encapsulates my experience of the day. In the end, what took thirty-one days to write has taken over twenty drafts and two years to publish. My hope is that by sharing my story, others will be inspired to explore their own.
            This is my story about my return to a meaningful and authentic life via a daily creative practice. In my case, this is done through writing, although for others it might be something else. Creation is, after all, expressed in infinite ways. You therefore don’t have to be a writer to derive value and meaning from this book. Although if you are, then I’m sure you will relate to some of the battles and dragons I faced. Yet this book is for anyone who is looking for more inspiration in life or another way to get through those difficult times and who doesn’t want to wait for the next blue moon to experience it.

Hedley Derenzie

About the Author 
Hedley Derenzie is an Australian-born writer and the author of four books, including two on public speaking. Her latest book Write Way Home is a personal story about her quest to rediscover a sense of meaning and purpose in life by developing a daily creative practice. Her other book Finding Paris is the first instalment in her travel/romance memoir series. Her work has appeared in Nature & HealthThe Huffington Post and Thought Catalog, among other publications. She is currently based in Bali and is slightly obsessed with her dog Licu.

Learn more on her OFFICIAL WEBSITE!

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