Isn’t that just the way things work. Once you throw your hands up in the air in frustration, giving up, surrendering to the universe that you just can’t do it (whether it is searching for our car keys or looking for a reason on why you are blocked at writing your memoir) anymore, the answer comes.
I picked up my memoir writing bible Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer yesterday after publishing my blog post. I picked it up cause I felt like I just announced to the world that I had given up and I wanted to know why this happens to me all the time. I get so far in my writing and then I get stumped. I know I need more balance but I needed to know where.
I read a little story in Miss. Rainer’s book and it went something like this:
One of her students would write and write and write. She would shut herself off from the world and go hard but then all of a sudden she would stop and feel empty. She would stop writing and fall into a depression.
I don’t feel that I have fallen into a depression but I do miss the feeling of wanting to celebrate with a glass of wine every night. I miss that feeling of deep grounding joy like everything was right in the world. Why is writing such a roller coaster for me and how can I get it to even out to a steady contentment?
She gives a list of ideas on how to do this at the end of Chapter Thirteen. None of them really surprised me but seeing her words written there was like a little bit of therapy. Like a friend reminding me of what I was suppose to do. Depending on my emotions and the situation I may choose any of her ideas but the two that stood out to me the most are:
- Contain your writing. This is the category of one-day-at-a-time, baby steps, assembly work, and war rations. It means you divide your work into small sections, and when you have completed a section , you stop and don’t let yourself write anymore.
- Get off your butt and get some exercise – walking, running, dancing, yoga, whatever works for you to discharge pent-up energy.
I was so desperate to get in a word count that I was pushing and pushing myself to write more even after I felt so much emotion from extracting a major memory. That is where #1 comes in handy. I will write a memory and then that is it. Leave it alone. No word count.
Looking at my puppy the other day I realized that I have not walked him (or me) since I started working steadily on This Old House. I need to get back out there and be with nature, breath some fresh hair and get my heart rate up. Our walks were a special time for both of us and I let it slide.
Miss Rainer also pointed out something else to me. I need to know my theme. Writing abstractly is rather challenging. My theme … my theme … I need a conflict. I need to ponder this for a spell. What I had set out to write, a charming little story about growing up on the prairies now seems complicated. I need substance.
“Theme” is the conceptual string that runs through and holds a work together; loosen it or break it, and the work tends to fall part. Whereas story is the growth of character, theme is the development of an idea. Story provides the mythic and emotional skeleton for autobiographic writing; theme provides conceptual coherence. Knowing your theme helps you include only those incidents, characters, and scenes that can be hung on it. It is your premise for deciding what to put in your work and what to leave out.”
It has been very beneficial for me to write out these random memories. For the ones I felt the most for are the ones that carry the heart of my story. I am going to excavate those stories and see a common thread. Then I will understand my theme and lay it out on my timeline software.
In the meantime I started on another little project that I have been letting settle for the past year. I will share it tomorrow.