When Lotta received her ‘Local Hero’ award in 2014, she celebrated it with lime and soda rather than bubbly. Lotta wrote her way sober with a blog called ‘Mrs. D Is Going Without’, attracting such a huge following that she wrote her memoir of the same name three years later.
JEANNA THOMSON chats to Lotta Dann about writing and the role it has played in her recovery from alcohol addiction.
Q: How did you become a writer? Tell us a bit about your journey so far.
A: I have always been a writer in one form or another. In my job as a TV journalist and producer, I wrote news-scripts, documentary outlines and programme proposals. I didn’t discover my true writing ‘voice’ until I started blogging as a tool to keep myself sober. Once I started writing truthfully about what was going on in my head with regards to my addiction I unlocked my natural writing style, one which comes to me very easily.
Q: What made you decide to write the book ‘Mrs D is going without’?
A: I felt I had a really good story to tell of how I had undergone a massive change in my life getting sober. I experienced a huge turnaround in my thinking around alcohol and also discovered incredible support online. I knew there were many others like me out there (hopelessly trapped in a cycle of addiction) and I hoped that my book might show them how change can occur and lead them into the wonderful world of online recovery.
Q: Did writing help you deal with the challenges you encountered becoming sober?
A: Absolutely! Writing is my main recovery tool. Externalising all my secret compulsions, thoughts and feelings has been incredibly powerful and freeing. Also being open about what is really going on helps me to connect with like-minded people.
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest writing achievement?
A: I think my greatest writing achievement will be my second book. It has been the hardest writing project I have ever undertaken. The whole process has been very fraught and emotional. However, I persevered and pushed through the difficulties and finally I have a project that I can be proud of.
Q: Do you have any routines or rituals that help you get into writing mode?
A: Sometimes I’ll light a scented candle and make a cup of tea. But mostly I just sit down and write. I find it takes me a while to really ‘settle’ into writing mode but once I’m away then I’m good.
Q: You are working on a second book at the moment. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A: This second memoir – ‘Mrs D Is Going Within‘ – charts the work I did to develop new coping mechanisms for staying sober. There’s a saying – ‘putting down the drink is just the beginning’. Once the dust settled and I began to feel very strong in my sobriety, I realised I needed to do some ‘next stage’ work on new tools to help me deal with life. All my years of steady alcohol use had left me with very few strategies. This book will chart the work I did and the new tools I have developed.
Q: Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Any tips for smashing through it?
A: Just write! Put your bum on the seat and write. Don’t worry if it’s crap. Don’t listen to your inner critic. Don’t get paranoid about what other people are going to think. Don’t get envious about what other writers are achieving. Just write, write, write….
About the Author
Jeanna Thomson, originally a teacher, hung up her chalk over ten years ago. Jeanna has produced and edited a bi-monthly education-industry publication in London, worked as an Education Advisor in Nepal for VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) and also worked in the mental health sector. She is passionate about promoting mental health awareness through her writing. Currently based in Wellington, Jeanna’s first feature article will be published in Next magazine early 2017. When you look in the boot of her car you will find…. both boxing gloves and ballet shoes!
Jeanna is a recent graduate of the journalism course at NZ Writers College.