12 01 2013
Memories Don't Fade Like Hair Does: Memoir Writing Help for You, Our Elders, to Tell Your Story
~~~Old age, to the unlearned, is winter; to the learned,
it’s harvest time. ~ Yiddish saying~~~
You can tell your life story by biography, which is a whole
book that starts from the start and ends at (or near) the
end. But if you don’t want to take on such a huge task, you
can tell your story in snippets and snatches, through memoir
Memoir writing consists of–as the word, from the Latin
memoria, indicates–individual memories.
The convenience this affords us is this: –we can start at
any place in our lives we want –we can write of an event,
moment, idea, person, place, or object…in isolation –we
don’t need any order or convention to inhibit our getting
words on paper…to start.
Let the Memoir Writing Come
Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or any formatting or
structure. Just jot down the first thing that comes and go
with it, whether it takes you into another story, a
description of other things, or your opinion.
We will, over time, cover different ways to remember,
different ways to write, and then, later, ways to put the
pieces all together–if you wish.
For now, let’s start with a kind of memoir writing that we
can use in every piece we write:
We need description. Our readers need description. And we
need to get that description out of our heads and into
Details Our Readers Can Sense
Our goal (and power as writers) is to turn what we recall
into what readers can feel, see, taste, touch, and hear, so
we can get them as close to our memories as possible.
One Way to Describe
This is fun with a friend, but you can do it alone, too, and
e-mail me your results.
Get the following items from your pantry or ice box (or have
someone bring them to you):
lemon peanuts in shell plain chocolate bar/drops/chips
marshmallow kiwi Pop Rocks candy or Alka-Seltzer tablets.
one small knife a notebook and writing tool
Work with one item at a time. 1. Look at the item. How
does it look? Write down the texture, color, size, shape,
and other words that you think of when you look at the
item. 2. Touch the item. How does it feel? What does
the temperature feel like, the texture, the weight? 3.
Smell the food item. How does it smell? 4. Listen to the
item. Does it have a sound? How about when you add it to
water, put the knife to it, bite into it, or put it in your
tongue? 5. How does it taste?
Here is the Challenge:
With every word you use to describe, try to push yourself
(or your partner) to go beyond the obvious descriptive
words. For example, if you find that the marshmallow is
soft, what kind of soft is it? Is it soft the way fresh
laundry is soft? The kind of soft in whipped cream? Is
the sweet a candy sweet or a sweet gherkin sweet?
Imagine that you are describing the item to someone who has
never seen/had one, someone from another planet, and you
need to get the person to retrieve the item for you to save
your life. (The same way you would need to describe a
medication, so the person doesn’t bring you a heart pill
instead of a blood pressure pill.)
Be as unique and original as you can with your words.
Refuse to be satisfied with just “crunchy,” “sour,” “cold.”
Then, when we go to the next assignment, you will be ready
to bring to life the details of your past, your life story.
Note: Did you notice that pushing yourself to describe what
you sensed inevitably evoked comparisons. Descriptions lend
themselves to metaphors. Writers use metaphors to convey
and express. You are now a writer!
N.H.-born prize-winning poet, creative nonfiction writer, memoirist, and award-winning Assoc. Prof. of English, Roxanne is also web content and freelance writer/founder of http://www.roxannewrites.com, a support site for academic, memoir, mental disability, and creative writers who need a nudge, a nod, or just ideas