MEMOIR WRITING RESOLUTIONS. Let’s make some, so that 2012 can be the year you meet your memoir writing goals. Five days to go. Let’s count down with five posts geared to getting you in gear. Ready? Here we go.
From January first onward, you will ignore all writing prompts. That’s right. From that day forward, you are going to give up writing exercises and prompts, and all other manners of nonsense, and engage in what I call writing with intent. To do so, you merely have to stop frittering away your time, and really participate in this glorious pursuit called writing memoir. We are, after all, waiting to hear from you.
Get ready. It’s so much easier than it sounds.
When you practiced with prompts, something always flowed, though all of it remains in some notebook. Much like playing tennis with a pro who hits every shot right to you, those exercises convinced you that you had this writing thing nailed. But then you found that when alone in a room trying to write, it’s mind-slammingly hard. Sound familiar?
This year, we are going to change all that.
Writing is good, honest work. And it cannot be reduced to generic writing exercises and pre-fabricated prompts. And ask yourself these questions: Have any of those ditties ever gotten you published? Has scribbling from the right side of your brain, or getting in touch with your angel’s feather, or keeping morning pages put you where you want to be as a writer? After reading one of those books of exercises, or subscribing to yet another web-based, prompt-list newsletter, have you actually finished that letter to your child that you long to give her? I doubt it. I suspect that those manners of nonsense have instead stolen what little time you had for writing.
How do I know? Because my classes are filled with people recovering from those very exercises, people whose sole relationship to writing was practicing. Also in my classes: aspiring authors who detoured into inertia after listening to parents, spouses, nuns, or teachers tell them that memoir writing has no value.
Its value is inestimable. Which is why you have to be taught to do it.
You want to write? Then let’s write.
Maybe it is only now occurring to you that you want to write down some scenes from your life. That’s wonderful, since it is never too late—or too early—to begin. Perhaps a link to this blog was sent to you from someone who wants to read those tales you tell. What a lovely compliment the giver is offering by encouraging you to write it all down. Don’t worry if you think of yourself as inexperienced: You’ll be fine. Because of the few things I know for certain, one is that everyone has a story. That, and that whether you are a beginner or someone who has written for years, your challenges are nearly the same, since memoir writing is a great equalizer, smoothing the playing field to a large degree, while pocking it with the very same hazards for all.
And don’t worry if you’ve never kept a journal, notebook or scrapbook, and can’t imagine how you’ll remember the details of life. Throughout this blog I am going to tell you tales that will stir up your subconscious, as well as teach you methods for researching your own life. We’ll get to your material. I promise.
So let’s begin together, in the new year, literally on the same page, and with a tacit agreement that from this moment on, we will write no exercises; we will write for real. With a goal. Maybe that goal is to get on NPR. Good. The back page of The New York Times Sunday Magazine, perhaps? Fine. Maybe you want to publish a book? Great. Maybe your intent is to give your spouse the gift of a tale from your marriage. Perfect. Maybe it’s to write the best damn eulogy for an upcoming memorial service. Your intent is superb. Let’s go. Maybe your intent is to tell your kids the story of their ancestors’ emigration, or about the crazy middle-of-the-night rush to the hospital that resulted in their births. Even better. And here’s some good news: When you write memoir, you’ll be writing what you know. That’s right: What you already know. From now on, that’s your job, and nowhere in that job description does it include lighting a scented candle, throwing on a shawl, and scribbling exercises or prompts in a notebook until you get bored and head back to your macramé.
From this minute forward, your intent is to write with purpose. And trust me when I tell you that the difference between morning pages and writing with purpose is the difference between a wish and a prayer.