The Bee Talks With… Sarah E. Olson

Becoming One by Sarah E. Olson

Today I feel honoured to host Sarah E. Olson who kindly agreed to answer my questions. Sarah has written a book called “Becoming One” where she describes her healing journey from abuse victim who has dissociated to becoming one and supporting others via her blog “Third Of A Lifetime”.

I will post a review of “Becoming One” tomorrow and I can only say that it is a powerful book. But enough said: here is what Sarah has to say for herself:

“How would you describe yourself in one paragraph?

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Bee! I’m the author of Becoming One: A Story of Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder, and have been active in online child abuse survivor support groups and talking with survivors for 20+ years. I curate links dealing with PTSD on my blog, Twitter, and Pinterest. My husband Dan and I live south of Boston with three inside cats who rule everything. I enjoy living in New England with its vivid changing seasons, although this winter has tested me! I began writing as a child, and never stopped. I’m intellectually curious, and relentless in tracking down details, which both helps and hinders productivity. In nonfiction, I read a lot about psychological trauma treatment, while in fiction, I primarily read police procedurals, dystopian novels, and dark psychological thrillers. There is often an overlap between my nonfiction and fiction interests. As one example, I loved The Hunger Games trilogy, not just for its story of revolution, but for how Katniss’s multiple traumas were subtly developed into very recognizable PTSD symptoms over the length of the series. It felt authentic to me. Fiction or nonfiction, I always want to read things that make me think.

A fun fact about you?

A strange artifact of my childhood abuse is that I hear music in my left ear, which is otherwise nearly deaf. It’s not music from an external source — it emanates from within my head. 🙂 I can’t change it, override it, or turn it off, and sometimes the selection is incredibly annoying. Like, why the muzak version of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” on endless repeat when I love her original?! Sometimes I can sing harmony with myself, which makes me laugh! It seems to pick up volume when I’m stressed. It’s not crazy or schizophrenic; it’s a dissociative thing that I accept as part of me. I’ll be exploring this and similar phenomena in more depth in my follow-up book titled Becoming One Every Day: Living Purposefully with Dissociative Identity Disorder, due in late 2015.

What made you write in the first place?

As a child, I began writing fairy tale stories which featured bright, beautiful, most-loved, and safe little girls. I wasn’t getting much of that in real life. In high school, I wrote poetry and short stories which I showed no one. As an adult, I trained to be a paralegal — a ghostwriter for attorneys. I’d learned my entire life that attention was not a good thing, so instead of going to law school I chose a support profession which guaranteed I would never receive credit for my writing. My quest for the last 20 years has been to challenge myself to risk putting my writing out there in a public way.

Which Author has influenced you and why? Combined with “What is your favourite book?”

I first read The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Stroub, about 30 years ago, and have reread it several times. It describes an alternate — but adjacent — universe to our own, kept separate by a force field which occasionally rips open and creates chaos in both worlds. It introduces the idea of ‘twinners,’ whereby if you are a happy person here, you have a twinner in the other realm with darker aspects. Or if you are evil here, your twinner is most likely fighting for forces of good on the other side. A lonely little boy accidentally steps into the other reality, and learns that he must find the Talisman which will either unite both realms or destroy them.

I read The Talisman long before I was formally diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The intriguing notion that there were ‘twinners’ in a nearby alternate reality hit me as very close to home, and fascinated me. I’d often felt that I must have crossed some huge surreal force field where all the rules and people were different, but somehow still very weirdly familiar. And I could never explain it, to myself or anyone else — but here was a book that offered an alternate reality that actually made some sense of my bizarre life. I believe that reading The Talisman made me much more open to exploring alternate realities within me, in therapy, than I’d ever have entertained otherwise.

Your writing ritual (if you have one)?

I don’t really have a ritual. I’m grateful any time I feel inspired, and take notes in those moments so I won’t lose the thread of what was important about it. At any one time I have numerous projects, fiction and nonfiction, floating around in my brain, but I’ve learned that I must really focus on one at a time or nothing gets finished.

Your secret “sin” when you write?

I drink far too much coffee! 🙂 

Do you suffer from writers block and if, what do you do against it?

I do get writer’s block. For me, it’s about procrastination paired with perfectionism. Somewhere as a child I learned that if I can’t do it perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all, which then makes me delay even trying. I fight that self-judgment daily, because it just stops me cold sometimes. I want the writings I put out into the world to be as good as they can be, but if I wait for “perfect” they’ll never be released. My commitment to myself this last year has been to finish things, which is why the ebook version of Becoming One exists today.

Your advice for apprentice writers?

No matter what you want to write, fiction or nonfiction, you need to keep writing. You need practice to learn your style and hone your voice. Like any skill, you get better the more you work it. At the same time, don’t stop reading! You can learn so much about writing craft by examining how other writers do it.

Beyond that, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer! You can control your own writing destiny, either by self-publishing or seeking a traditional publisher. Becoming One was first published by a very small press in 1997, and I was grateful for that opportunity. But today, with self-publishing, there are no gatekeepers, and you have choices that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Research those choices carefully, to be fully informed about whatever path you choose.

A great place to start that research is at http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ to which I’ve subscribed for five+ years. Joanna Penn has steadfastly and honestly blogged her journey from being a blogger who writes about writing, to taking the leap into writing thrillers. Her website is a wealth of information for anyone looking to get started with writing and publishing. (I have no affiliation with her other than knowing that she is a genuinely helpful and generous person.)”

Thank you again, Bee, for your hospitality!

You are very welcome!

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Please find her book on Amazon (link. below). A countdown deal of $.99 runs from 31. March to 6. April 2015 both on Amazon UK and US and it is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Please find out more about Sarah here:

Sarah’sBlog
Sarah onTwitter
Sarah onPinterest
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