Memoir Writing: Discover Your Life: How is it going?

I am checking in.  How is it going?  Are you writing?  Boy, I must admit this September has been a challenge for me.  There is so much going on at home I am just swimming.  This post was supposed to happen yesterday and there are not many hours left in today!  How do we keep a schedule?  How do we maintain goals?

It is so easy to pick up your note-book and pen and write today and then leave it for a day, week, month, year or even decade!  Too easy.  We leave it, stumble across it, make an intention to pick it up again and then get busy and never do.  Next thing you know it has been on the to-do list the longest and you wonder if you are ever going to finish it!  Are you?

The other day I read a blog post from a fellow writer.  In it she references a blog post she read that inspired her.  I would like to pass it on to you here and see if helps you find a routine, or to reinstate your desire to write a reflection of your self.  Cause I think recording our views, thoughts, perspectives, events and stories of our worlds is very important and for each one of us it will be for different reasons.  More on that later.

Here is the link and please follow her links.  They are very insightful!

Have a happy week!


Memoir Writing: Discover Your Life: Imprinting

What are the images and perceptions we gained from ourselves as children from our parents? They instilled in us some of the first police we have about ourselves. (Remember, if you get a glimmer of some memory peaking in at the edge of your mind grab hold of it! Don’t let it sneak away!)

There is no doubt that we grew up with love in our house hold.  Although I am pretty sure it came almost all from my dad.  He would give us hugs and piggy backs to bed.  He would play games with us, trapping us in his legs and giving us whisker rubs on our checks.

Dad with three of us. I am the one with the bottle.

Mom booted us outside so she could have some quiet in the house.  She only ‘hugged’ me twice as a child.  They were not really hugs.  I just got to lay my head on her lap once cause I was tired on the bus ride from Rose Valley to Saskatoon.  The other time I was on her lap.  As an adult she hugs me all the time though.  When she sees me hugging my kids she says that she never thought to hug us girls when we were little.

This is an old picture but it is one of my favourites of mom and I.

Going down town with dad was like being a superstar when I was a kid.  All four of us girls in tow as dad led the way down the street, in and out of stores.  We were Hjalmar’s girls – his “four dolls” as we were often refered too.  I sware dad took us to town just to get attention.  He was otherwise a very quiet and reserved man.

One thing I wish dad never taught me was the notion that what I had to say was not important.  My dad is 52 years older than I am.  He raised my three sisters and I with the idea that children are to be seen and not heard.  When we speak it was only to answer the questions we were asked and not to say anymore.  If I was caught carrying on then I got a firm squeeze on the shoulder or arm or even plainly said to me, “That’s enough now.”  This left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

This message is deep within me.  I am attempting public speaking lessons with Toastmasters and let me tell you it pops up.  My voice trails off when I assume I am ‘carrying on’.  It is going to be hard  habit to break.

In summary I grew up with the two messages of be quiet and listen to others while being cute.  Too this day when my husband says I am cute it drives me batty.  It feels like the biggest insult.

He also taught me to be of service to others no matter the cost of myself but that is probably a whole book.  Hey, I guess it might be Sunlight.  Hmm…

Back to this blog post.  What messages did you receive from your parents as children and how does it impact you now?

Memoir Writing – Discover Your Life – Self Loathing

*I apologize greatly for being two days late on this post. I apologize to infinity and back.*

Have you ever told yourself “I am a bit hard on myself “?  Do you remember the occasion? The little voice that says this is the voice of your Self and your ego’s criticism at war with who you are and what you do. Your ego is knocking you down and your authentic self is fighting for you.

This voice is telling you that something is wrong. Self needs something and your ego is kicking you down. Listen carefully to the thoughts running through your head when this voice pops up. There’s a message. There is a lesson to be learned.

Since Sunday I have not been writing. With a preschooler in the house I need to rise early to get my writing out of the way or it isn’t going to happen.  It especially is not going to happen when my husband is not around.  He left to New York for business on Sunday.  The catch with getting up early to write is that I am ready for bed around supper time.  I get pretty grumpy in the afternoons.  So I head to bed early and let my husband put our little girl to bed.  Only I can’t do that this week.

I made a conscious decision to not get up early this week to write because I didn’t want to be too tired to parent and run the show around here.  Got to have your wits about you with a seventeen year old girl in the house. Not to mention patience for a demanding three year old.  I even painted myself a glorious image in my mind about how grumpy I would be if I woke up early to work.  I would be laying on the couch watching movies and yelling all day long at my family.

Low and behold, I am miserable.  I lack patience.  I have not attention span.  I am grumpy and heavy and I can’t stand it.  All I can think about is writing and working.  I walk around the house saying, “Don’t be so hard on yourself Marlene.  It is just one week.  One week of a sacrifice.  You are not a bad mother.  You are just trying to cope with not writing and juggling everything else.”

Only writing can release this heavy pressure on me.  Why did I tell myself to not write?  So I wouldn’t be a bad mother.  Well, what have I got?  Not a great mother.  I would be better off if I wrote.  Quite often on the days that I write I am the happiest. I have  unbounding vitality! Well, on good writing days that is. Some days my vitality’s not unbounded but content.

The point I’m trying to make is that we lie to ourselves. Since Sunday I have been telling myself that this is the way it has to be and that I’m being too hard on myself as a mother, I’m being too hard on myself as a writer. When the reality is that I want more. I want to write even if it will make me tired.  I would be better off if I wrote.  My family would be better off if I wrote.  Why do I, or we, tell ourselves these lies?

When we hear this voice in our mind that convinces us of something, this can lead to self-loathing. What I am really telling myself is that I could be better than what I am.  Hey aren’t we all perfect even in our imperfections?  Also though, it can tell us something specific.  Like I have standards of being a mom I want to meet.  I have standards as a writer I want to meet.  I have standards of a work-life that I want to meet.  We could go deeper and evaluate these standards but for now lets just remember when was the last time we said “I’m being a bit hard on myself.” to ourselves.

When have you:

1.  Told yourself “I am too hard on myself”?
2.  You given up something you did not want to give up?
3.  Not done something you really wanted to do?
4.  Judged or compared yourself to someone else?
5.  In a world that strives for perfection what “imperfect” part of yourself do you loath?

Photo by Sunstone Creations

Memoir Writing – Discover Your Life – Archetypes

In my post on memoir writing last week I asked you to write about one moment your life tha significantly impacted you.  Now I am going to prose we dissect it.

I would like us to pull it apart to see what kind of archetypes lay lurking in side that little story clip.

Archetypes are characters.  Are you the class clown, the advocate or lawyer (you don’t actually have to hold these roles in society to have this characteristic), the muse, the mother (with or without children), or perhaps a  journalist.  (I always say my Teela is a journalist because whenever something new happens she tells everyone about this ground breaking discovery!) There are so many more.  Click here to read more online and see which ones resonate the most with you.

I consider Caroline Myss the expert on archetypes.  She wrote a book called Sacred Contracts and I highly recommend you picking it up sometime if you want to learn more.  It can offer great insight into your characters, and seeing yourself in another light.  I use her definitions of archetypes to name the ones I see in my moment that I wrote about last week.

Here is my dissection of my story:

I was a master at bike riding. I didn’t see how it was possible for anyone to be better at it than me. “

  • in these two sentences I believed I had super powers.  I was strong and powerful and in tune with the world around me.  I held the Warrior archetype

A feeling washed over me, I knew it through-and-through, that my life was here for a purpose. I stood there on the half-paved road in front of my house absorbing this knowledge like light from the sky. A gift. It became part of my being, my blood. “

  • in this section I fall under the Messiah archetype.  I feel a divine purpose and become obsessed over it for the years to come – and presently so.
  • In Caroline’s book she describes the Messiah as this “Its subtle expression, however, is far more common and more difficult to identify as a personal pattern.  People can become obsessed about their spiritial purpose, convinced that God needs them to do something.”
  • I can’t say that I feel God needs me to do something.  That statement does not cater to my spiritual beliefs.  However, I do feel called to do something.  But because I believe the divine is in each of us and connects us in some energy network rather than an outside force called God, I don’t relate to her definition.  This helps me to feel less crazy but perhaps I am anyways:)

Last but not least is the whole section.  The fact that I write this out is part of the Storyteller in me.  Often when I talk to friends I share with them stories that will help them or inspire them.  I convey and interpret life through stories.

Now, feel free to share your dissection or story of significance:)

Memoir Writing: Discover Your LIfe: Sparks from an Old Photo

Using old photographs to remember the past can be a delightful surprise.  I have looked at photos and thought nothing much of them but if I sit and write random things about the photo in a journal often some memory, image, or thought comes to mind.  Perhaps it is all made up.  I can not be sure unless I ask a family member to verify.  Sometimes I don’t ask anyone.  I just let my memories flow and see what I say about myself.

The work above is a draft of my blog post Bored, based on recapturing a memory from an old photo. Click on the photo to be taken to the blog post.

Using photos to stimulate memory is an old technique.  Nothing new but the trick is to go deeper.  I suggest to not just tell what happened the day of the photo but to reflect on your five senses as well as your thoughts.  Your thoughts are the big ones.  Can you remember what was racing through your mind in that particular photo you hold in your hand?

In the book Writing as a Road to Self-Discovery, Barry Lane talks about these memories as potatoes and the story of the picture is referred to as the leaves and stem of the plant.  Get under the dirt and dig some potatoes.  (Now that is a good country metaphor if I ever heard one.  Us Saskatchewanian’s love our potatoes! However, we don’t all like to share our feelings.)

Here is Lane’s definition of a potato:

“What’s a potato?  A potato is an unresolved question, a memory that asks to be written about, a person or place or event that has haunted your memory for years, a crazy idea you love to think about, a smell or a song that triggers a thousand memories.  In short, a potato is anything that makes you want to write so much you can feel it tugging at your pen.”

No go and find a photo or any trigger, an old toy you still have, or perhaps some article of clothing from your youth and dump those potatoes all over the page.