A memoir is a series of moments.
In order to bring these moments to life,
it is necessary to create scenes that capture and communicate
the physical reality of the chosen moments.
- — Mark Matousek
The online memoir class I attended ended a few weeks ago. Thankfully though, the teacher listened to our pleas and have set up a check-in webinar.
I enrolled in the memoir class because the nagging book project has not materialized at all. A couple of years ago, I heard the call to write a book. I told our teacher that I was literally dragging myself to memoir class because honestly, things are good in my life now and I see no need nor purpose to write a book. If I could just silence this calling…
I was fortunate to have a very patient and astute teacher. Inspite of my reluctance, I am one of those who signed up for the check-in in early December. Which means that I have been trying to write the first drafts of a few life stories.
One of the reasons why I continue along this path is because of the clarity that I gained from seeing my life stories as a string of events that composed my life. I have been journaling daily since I was in high school. Journaling has helped me deal with the issues and blows that life sent my way, but attempting to weave the stories into one coherent whole was truly empowering.
My classmates in memoir class had powerful stories and mine paled in comparison. In memoir class I realized that I had quite a blessed life. Our family had its share of troubles – our parents separated when we were young, and our mother struggled to raise us. But for every blow, there seemed to be a basket of blessings. This made it hard for me to believe that my life stories would be worth reading…it seemed ho hum compared to those of my classmates’ stories, which reeked with drama, suspense, and turbulence that spurred determination, courage, and tenacity.
Our teacher continued to encourage me though. In his response to my submission for the last assignment, he wrote “As a seeker, healer, and writer, you have a great deal of wisdom and experience to share — in memoir or in other forms — and I trust that you’ll do exactly that. ”
Encouraging words indeed. That’s why we need teachers…they know how to push the right buttons to keep us writing.
The check-in webinar is a couple of weeks away, and I am still writing about my childhood, which I am now enjoying thoroughly. Maybe if I had learned how to journal in grade school, I wouldn’t have this much fun writing about the memories. As it is, recalling my childhood has been providing me with a resource of joy. I don’t know if this will amount to anything. For now, I am writing my life stories and enjoying the process. I will continue to seek guidance from our teacher. Whether or not this will amount to a good memoir or not, really doesn’t matter at this point. I am writing, and I am having fun. What more can a writer ask for?
In his book, Write Your Memoir, Dr. Allan G. Hunter writes, “What has become clear…is that writing about one’s life or better still, writing the story of one’s life, causes change at a deep level. So profound is this process that it seems to be best described as Soul Work, since it moves each writer into a different relationship to him or herself and to the past. If you take on this work, it will also alter your relationship to the world around you, which in turn provides an enhanced sense of what matters most in life.” He continues, “It’s a spiritual process, although it might not look like it when one watches a writer, day after day, at the desk.”
In real life, moments bleed into each other;
decisions begin as germs of feeling that evolve in subtle ways over time;
nothing is linear or strictly sequential.
Memoir is difficult for precisely this reason;
from shapeless life, we must carve out a shape;
from nebulous experience,
we’re called on to distill essential moments
that communicate the steps of our narrative.