Despite all the downsides to the internet—its time-sucking capacity being one of them—it has made life easier—it’s easier to shop, to find information, and it’s easier to make friends.
(Brilliant segue coming up –>) One of these friends is Gulara Vincent. Gulara now lives in the UK, but grew up in Azerbaijan. She joins me in the attic today to tell the story of how she met her father’s family, and how writing has helped her integrate the past.
Dr Gulara Vincent is a writer, university law lecturer and a Momentum Mentor for Writers. Her book proposal was a winner in the 2014 and 2015 Transformational Author Experience Writing Contest in the USA, and longlisted for the TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition 2016.
When not writing or teaching, Gulara helps women writers to release their inner fears and emotional blocks so that they can have a successful writing career. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook or Twitter. You can also sign-up to her mailing list to receive compassion meditations and other support she sends out to her subscribers.
Writing as a Journey of Healing and Self-discovery
I started writing creatively in December 2011 to make a sense of my life. My parents got divorced when I was two weeks old. I never met my dad, and when I was in my early twenties, I heard that he died at the age of 44. For years, I tried to answer an impossible question: How would my life have panned out if we were still together? As I grew up, I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need a dad anymore. Except … I was looking for him in family photo albums and dysfunctional relationships. With time, I turned to therapy and other healing approaches. They took the edge off the pain, but that gaping hole in my heart would not close.
So, in December 2011, I decided to have a closure on this father thing. I went to my home town determined to find his grave, say goodbye, and set us both free. My grandmother promised to help but when I got there she said she hadn’t found his whereabouts. Disappointed, I walked to the town centre. Out of the blue, I heard my mum’s voice in my head, the words from the distant past:
‘You have an auntie who lives in the town centre. Her name is Tahira.’
Desperate, I went knocking on doors and asking after this woman. An hour later, a man greeted me in his front courtyard and said that indeed there was Tahira in that household. I couldn’t believe my luck. She came out, peered into my eyes and said:
‘You look familiar, but I can’t place you.’
‘That’s because we’ve never met. I’m Nizami’s daughter.’
She did something I hadn’t anticipated. She hugged me and cried tears of joy, saying she was waiting for this day for years. I asked for my dad’s photo, and she took me into the house. I walked in and nearly shot out. There were about 40 people, adults and children, celebrating, as it turned out it was my aunty’s 58th birthday. I was seated at the table and showered with questions, and … love. All the stories I’d told myself as a child about being unlovable were falling away. I was loved, it’s just that every story has two sides, and that day I had a chance to hear my dad’s side of the story.
I left their house transformed.
After I returned to England, I was floating on cloud nine for a week or two before I decided to write down every detail of that encounter. It felt precious and one of the defining moments of my life. Once I started writing, other stories started pouring out. I was trying to make sense of the childhood memories.
Nothing made sense anymore.
So I started writing my first book. ‘It’ll be about my dad.’ Three chapters in and the book changed its mind: it was all about my mum. I kept writing. I worked with a writing mentor for three years. Every month I sent her two 12-page submissions and I poured out several lifetimes of pain and trauma into some 300,000+ words.
Two years ago, I also started blogging. To me, blogging has a different purpose and energy. It’s about reclaiming my authentic voice, being visible and standing in my power. I’ve spent many years of my life hiding who I am and how I feel, so it was quite a stretch to start with. I wrote nicey-nicey—not much controversy, feeling the ground, and learning how to navigate the blogosphere.
I feel I’m up-levelling to a new stage and stepping into my power as a woman and writer. So, if being in the moment and inspiring someone out there was the primary purpose of my blogging, now it’s more streamlined and has a distinct purpose: in effect, it became a bridge between my writing life and the healing work I do with women writers. Given how intimately I know the pain of being on the writing path and all the years I spent on learning healing techniques, my blogging is now directed at supporting other writers. I’m using my newly found courage to speak about topics we’d rather avoid: disappointment, rejection, fear of failure, feeling ‘not good enough’—you name it. I offer an antidote to those uncomfortable feelings too—compassion, which may or may not suit every reader, but the offering is there nonetheless.
It’s no exaggeration to say that writing has changed my life. I’ve got to know myself better, became relatively comfortable with sharing my story, and fostered connections across the world.
If you’d like to write something for ‘Writers in the Attic’, let me know via the Contact page. The topic is what writing means to you, but it can be taken as broadly as you like. A length of 600-1000 words seems to suit best, and I offer a small gift as a thank you for your time. I still have a few spots to fill in the weeks leading up to Christmas …
If you’re stuck for ideas on what to write, I have a Q&A I can send with some prompts, so let me know.
A reminder to sign up for my Newsletter to keep up to date with the progress of my book in the lead up to publication.
Not only will you be kept up with the news, but all subscribers are in the running for a monthly giveaway.
And there’s even more: Each new subscriber receives a link to my short story, ‘Metaplasia’. For free!
Could your day possibly get any better?
This is so inspirational Gulara, and what a story, what a journey. Writing has such a way of bringing out the best in us and I’m with you about blogging as a means of finding that authentic voice. As you have found yours. Thank you.
Thank you so much for reading, Elisabeth. Yes, life’s been quite a journey for me, and through writing I’m learning to see those events as a gift. And I’m so glad blogging has been such an empowering experience for you too.
Couldn’t agree more, Elisabeth! Writing should be prescribed by doctors, it’s that good for you! I think one of the ways blogging helps is because of all the extra writing you do, and unlike a private journal, you have to prepare it for readers. It really hastens your development as a writer.
Wow, I am struck by how different we all are and how the different reasons shape our journey’s. I love how you made your aunt’s birthday special x
Rae, thank you for reading and leaving a comment here. I think it was after I started writing my own story I paid closer attention to other people’s life stories and I’m always blown away by depth and drama that goes on in so many people’s lives. Each of our lives is worthy of a book. So many amazing circumstances which shape us and our journeys. I definitely made my aunt’s day on her birthday, and 18 December 2011 is a turning point in my own life, one of the biggest milestones. Lovely to connect.
Yep, I think everyone’s life is worthy of a book, too. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone wrote about their life, even just a couple of their memories, and not just the good ones. But people are mostly too frightened to tell their real story, even though they’re the best stories of all.
Could not agree more, Louise. 🙂
Thanks Louise for sharing Gulara’s post about writing. I’ve travelled with her over the last long-ish while and have always enjoyed her heart-felt writings . She is a boon to all –
I’ve seen you on Gulara’s blog, Susan, and I agree with you about her heartfelt writing. Thanks for visiting the attic!
Aw, thank you for all your support, Susan. It’s such an honour to journey with you on the writing path. I appreciate your kind words, thank you for stopping by.
Loved reading your story, Gulara… it’s truly inspirational. My first book Write to Heal was a mix of my personal journey and how writing helped me to heal and integrate too… it continues to do so. Blessings and happy writing! Thanks Louise for continuing your collaboration… it’s inspiring ♥
Leanda, thank you so much for reading and your kind words. I love the sound of your book, I’ll stop by to check it out. Writing to heal is such an inspiring journey and everyone can do it – it doesn’t have to get published, right? I’d love to write a self-help book integrating writing and healing one day. Many thanks for connecting.
I can’t sing the praises of writing enough—I know the natural high it gives you and how it helps you process and integrate things that are troubling you.
I’m enjoying this series, Leanda, so I’m glad you are too! Thanks for commenting. x
Absolutely… it doesn’t have to get published, Gulara. However, I feel when we do publish, it gives readers the opportunity to resonate with our personal story. In doing so they may look at their own life and recognise they too have a story ♥
I agree whole-heartedly, Leanda, while writing stretched me a lot, it’s the idea of publishing my book and getting the exposure that gave me a massive growth spurt 🙂 I’m still working on my visibility issues, and I hope that I’ll be able to publish my story before too long.
Gulara I’ve read a version of this story before on your blog, but I didn’t know it was your aunt’s birthday party the day you arrived and met her. That struck me as so fateful that I had goosebumps reading your story all over again. I’m so glad you’ve found your way in writing and in life – you’re amazing! (Thanks Louise for sharing Gulara’s story!)
Awe, Fiona, thank you so much, I’m smiling as I read your comment. Here’s another interesting detail: her actual birthday is 19 December. That year, they decided to celebrate it on Sunday 18 December so that all of the family could attend 🙂 As it turned out, me included. Yes, it was such a fateful moment, and I don’t get tired telling this story 😀 Many thanks for reading it again. I’m grateful for all your support.
The stars must have aligned that day, Gulara. It was obviously meant to be. Thanks for sharing your story here. xx
I love your realisation Gulara, that there are two sides to a story. There are myriad sides to every story. That’s what makes them so resonant with so many. We are all products of many lives and those lives’ influences – it’s quite mind-blowing. As are the resultant stories. I loved yours; so touching. M
Thanks for this, M. Yep, always two sides, but it’s great when they both agree! And, we’re all the product of many complex lives, that’s why we’re so interesting! xx
I love what you said: ‘there are myriad sides to every story.’ So very true. It’s interesting that writing really helped me to connect with other people’s stories more fully, have a lot more compassion towards them and understand what made them the way they are. Thank you for connecting here. So glad you loved the story.