11 Lessons Learned: Week 3

  1. There is only one space now after the period?  Damn!  When did that change?  Who changed it and why? Was a bill passed through parliament about this?
  2. The passive voice is strong in me.  I am forever writing with it and thanks to wordpress spell/writing checker it is catching it every time.  I am learning to make stronger sentences.  In On Writing Stephen King explains the verbs well for me.  I learn grammar the best in the most abstract random ways.  Don’t sit me down with a grammar book cause my brain will freeze.  I need someone to sneak it in like Mr. King, or Grammar Girl, for it to stick.  Well the passive and active verbs haven’t stuck yet but I am learning.
  3. That the only right and wrong way to publish a memoir is with your conscience.  What you are willing to live with and what you can’t live without. It is challenging to write a story about yourself, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, but to do that with others in your life is not something easily weighed on ones conscious.
  4. I have gained great appreciation for how I was raised (see, passive voice.  I will leave this one in).  Unintentionally my parents gave me more gifts than I was aware of.  I knew I had a fabulous childhood and that is why I wanted to write This Old House but I am now seeing more and more gifts.
  5. The fear of saying what I want to say is still present.  I often type something and then think ‘Shit.  I can’t say that.  What will people think of me.’  Not saying it is weighing on me though.  I am going to have to get it off my chest soon and release that inhibition.
  6.   I have started writing things in my memoir writing book called JIFFs.  Short abrupt memories that plop into the middle of a main memory that I am writing.  I write the word JIFF in the margin and I am going to come back to them and investigate them more thoroughly at the end of my journey.  They are so short and random but I hold on to them for a reason.
  7. Now that I have a theme I have started a sheet where I brain-stormed memories that tie to the theme of my embarrassments, fears and feelings of inadequacies but also the light side of it the joys and the quirky moments and simple life that was so fulfilling and we had no idea.  I hope to put it in a timeline soon and post it on my website as a living document that I will add to as memories come.
  8. This process is connecting dots for me.  I love connecting dots.  That is my biggest passion of all – solving mysteries!  For example, I discovered where my fear of talking came from, being corrected by my peers in the grade three classroom for using the word ‘worser’.  Wow!  How long we hold onto some little-big things!
  9. While the memoir writing process is amazing and healing it can also be dangerous … is that the word I want to say?  Some memories don’t want to resurfaced, or they don’t want to come to the surface yet.  Write gently when you hit a moment that slows down your pen quickens your heart but stops your breath.  If a memory doesn’t want to come don’t rush it.  How to know if you need to push yourself or not?  Trust yourself.  If you choose not to push the memory see how you feel afterward.  Do you regret it or feel relieved?
  10. Uffda!  Can I make it so that I have learned 10 lessons this week?! I will combine it.  Tone of voice and point of view.  When I write about the memory of being picked on in Grade Three for using the word ‘worser’ I write it from the POV of me as a girl with the tone of voice of confusion.  The confusion I felt as a little girl still lingers.  I will re-write that scene a few more times to get the meat out. (Horrible analogy for a vegetarian).
  11. I have issues using the word ‘onto’.  Gotta stop.
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The Day Is Mine!

Here is something I wrote strictly from the point of view of me as a child.  It is funny how some memories come to me this way and others are so matter of fact as an adult’s perspective.

I’m the first one up. It is a sunny day. My sisters are laying so still. I crawl out of the double bed I share with Melinda gently and quietly.  Gladys doesn’t budge on the top bunk and Eleanor still lies on the cot by the window with her arm hanging out of bed.

I tiptoed to the kitchen where I hear dishes and pots moving and clanging. Mom is busy.

“Good morning”, I say. Dad has already gone to work. We don’t see him much during the summer. He’s gone before we ever get up and when he comes home we are often in bed.

Sometimes when we know he’s coming home for supper we hang out on the road watching and waiting to see his car. When we do see it turn the corner at the end of our crescent we run down the road as fast as we can and pretend we are hitchhikers for dad to pick us up.

Maybe we can do that tonight.  Right now I eat cornflakes and mom tells me my clothes are out on the line. I’ll be the first one outside!

As soon as I finish eating I head outside.  I open the door and then cower to protect my eyes.  Our house is so dark compared to the bright sun. Once adjusted I dash to towards the clothes line in my nightgown. The close line is at the back of the yard. I crossover the gravel driveway to get to the grassy path.

I am so tough that I can walk on these rocks and I am only six years old! They don’t hurt my feet at all.  I am going to be even tougher when I am bigger!

I think I am the first one up in the whole neighbourhood!  The first to breathe in this morning air.  I don’t hear a sound anywhere around me.

I dance, playing with the dew. It wants to make me as wet as possible so I try tiptoeing and jumping to get to my clothes. I’m giggling because the dew is winning.

It is tickling me with its cold wet fingers.  As I jump and dance not only are my feet wet so are my legs. I grab my sundress off the line careful not to break the clothes pins. Then I run back to the house. Hopefully the dew won’t catch me if I run fast.

I get inside and change in the kitchen so I won’t wake my sisters. I slip on my sundress ignoring my wet legs. Throwing my nightdress on a chair I dash outside barefoot. The newness of the day is mine.

A Bit of Sunlight – Writer’s Craft III

*Sorry for my post being so late.  I am working on finishing my book by Saturday.

 Saturday is my deadline!* 

It feels good to set my alarm clock each morning. I feel like I have a purpose. A small one. It is just for me, but it is a bit of something sweet to my day.

I have dumped out my garbage, the first step in Tom Bird’s book. I hope I got it all. The next step is to write my story. Before you start writing your masterpiece you create a contract binding you to working for thirty days on your writing, according to Mr. Bird. I do this and send it out to seven people. Requiring them to hold me accountable. Seven people who I feel safe with and I know will encourage me onwards. I should have my contract fulfilled by November 19th. I am pumped!

My husband is not one of these seven people and it bothers me.

I begin writing. I start by doing some mind-mapping to get my juices flowing. I put the subject of a memoir of my childhood in the middle of the page and then let topics flow out from that.  I keep doing this until one of those topics cause me to write and write and write.

I do this for almost half an hour. Tom Bird says it could take fifteen minutes so clearly there must be something wrong with me. My brain eventually finds a topic. I run with it and my writing begins.

After a week of getting up to write my story I am questioning my writing. I am not sure where this is going. My ‘story’ feels more like a journal. I wake up every day at five o’clock in the morning just to bitch for an hour and a half. I can not seem to shift it to be a memoir, or account of my life in Rose Valley, or anything else. I didn’t think I would write about these thoughts. Over and over again I write about what I am going through right now. I can not seem to shake it. Especially when it is the same fiasco day in and day out.  It is driving me crazy.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I got up in the night and wrote down the beginning of what I thought would be a family memoir. Those magical words that came to me so simply. They just slipped into my brain the night Craig and I watched Eat, Pray, Love. How come words are not coming so easily to me now?

Maybe I am stuck because I allow thoughts and events to block me from letting my creativity flow – like Craig’s pressure on me. I have noticed that when I write my best it is after I have stood up to Craig. How can he affect my creativity? Or is it me affecting my creativity? It isn’t every fight. It is the fights where I make myself the most vulnerable to him. Those fights where I am strong and my heart bursts through a wall I have up.  Those are the times that I feel art comes out of me – my mind is clear – and the process is easy.  It doesn’t make any sense.  

Memoir Writing: Discover Your Life – Point of View

What shapes your heart? What is your view of the world?

How do you see the world around you?  Why do you see it differently than your friend, sister or mother?  Perhaps you came to this world with beliefs already instilled in you.  Perhaps you were not a blank slate at birth.  I have three daughters and all of them had tendencies from birth that could not have been taught to them.  Each of them had their unique personalities and there is still nothing I can do about their quirks and point of view of the world.

My daughter Teela sees the world through rejection sometimes.  We were driving down Broadway Avenue (in Saskatoon, SK) and we both noticed a man walking his dog on the sidewalk.  The dog was off leash and following its owner.  Teela saw the scene as the man walking away from his puppy and leaving it behind.  I saw the man check back on his puppy and I think the dog was even carrying something in its mouth, a newspaper perhaps. I thought it was an adorable scene.   It is fascinating that we both noticed the same event but took two different perspectives of it.  Why does this happen?

My daughter Sherese has always been a bit skeptical of people.  As a preschooler she questioned their behaviour and did not trust it.  I still see this spark in Sherese as she is fascinated with dysfunctional families and people with psychological disorders.  The weirder the better.

Emily, my second child, was always ready to go on an adventure.  When I said it was time to go when visiting people she was always the first with her jacket on.  I see that kindle in her now as she prepares to travel the world.

We are all different and see the world differently.  My husband has always been the strong silent type.  I struggle to get him to talk unless it is about politics.  He has also been very good with money even as a young child.  He charged his sisters interest if they borrowed from him.  He also had the desire to read encyclopedias.  Not too many nine-year olds pulled an encyclopedia from the shelf for reading material when I was a kid.

When you wrote your obituary what was the general feeling?  Can you decipher from that how you see the world in a general sense?  I see the world as magical and possible.  I generally trust people and life.  Not always but generally.  I have strong positive beliefs about mothering and my community.  So there has to be some love in my point of view.  Maybe even lots of it.  Tradition and roots are important to me as well regarding my ashes being scattered around the yard of my family home.

What is your point of view of the world?  Is it good?  Can you trust it or do you tell your kids “It’s a hard life out there.”?  Think about common things you may say.  For example are you always encouraging your friends to be wild and crazy, quite their job and travel the world.  Or do you tell them to settle down, get an education, be safe?  What are some of your common themes?  Write about your themes for 10 minutes.  Set a timer and GO!

Photo compliments of my daughter Sherese Luneng