Saturday, August 5, 2017

Your Story Matters-Segment 9


Your Story Matters!

Memoir Writing Instructor Answers Your Questions




Every life is made up of stories—some are deliriously happy tales, others are devastatingly sad, and our life experiences represent every imaginable kind of emotion in between. We all have family history and life stories, and the sad truth is that if we don’t preserve them, they are permanently gone. There is no rewind. There is no going back to capture them.



Question 9.  There is one period in my past that is so difficult to think about. I lost my dad to cancer and my husband to heart disease within six months. It was the darkest time of my life. I am not sure how to write about it or if I am even able to revisit that deep, dark cavern of memories. Any advice for this situation? 

Answer 9. I am so sorry for your loss. When my dad passed away, I experienced sadness like I had never known. It did not dissipate quickly, so I can only imagine how it was for you to lose two close loved ones in such a short period of time. 

It is a fact of life, however, that sad and tragic events over which we have no control will take place as we travel through this journey. We typically lose friends and family and must deal with the grief associated with that loss. It is the normal cycle of life, though at the time it occurs, it seems anything but normal. 

When an elderly loved one passes, we can usually console ourselves with the fact that they lived a long life. When someone we love who was younger passes, we cannot help but feel that they were taken too soon. Then we remember that it is not up to us. When someone’s time on earth is over is not our decision. It is simply what happened, and we are left to cope with the results. 

Sadly, when such events take place in rapid succession, there is no time to recover before once again facing the mourning process and the intense and present feeling that we may never want to laugh again. Yours was a double whammy, so it is certainly understandable that you were shaken to the core. 

These events are a part of your history, and family members and loved ones may better understand you if they read your story and your feelings about that time of your life. They will have a clearer picture of who you are and where you have been.  

Reflecting on a difficult time in your life may not be at the top of your list of pleasant and desirable activities, but those painful experiences made a definite impact on you. Below is a list of suggestions on how to tackle this situation in your writing. You may find it easier to take it slowly and deal with only one item each time you write. Or perhaps there may be times when your writing is flowing so fruitfully, you continue working through the list. I hope that these ideas are helpful and enable you to share your feelings about this grim period. 

1-Write about pre-illness distinctive characteristics and specific incidents that represent who your loved one was, how he lived his life, what made him special to you and others.  

2-Think about when your loved one first became ill. Write about the initial symptoms, the doctor visits, what type of treatment plan was recommended/selected. How did he react/cope with his diagnosis and subsequent journey? 

3-Were there any humorous incidents that happened during this time? (I realize this sounds almost inappropriate, but if you can think of any, it would be great to share them.) 

4-What was the impact on you and other family members? 

5-Was there an opportunity to share the important conversations with your loved one that you desired? If not, you may choose to write what you wish you could have said or asked him. 

6-Write about the day your loved one passed. Share your feelings as well as the facts. 

7-Write about his funeral service/memorial service and anything significant to you about that day. 

8-What do you miss most about this dear one? 

9-How has your life changed since that difficult time? 

10-If you could advise others who are going through a similar situation, what suggestions can you offer them for coping and moving forward? 

Review what you have written. Consider any other beneficial aspects of the story that you may wish to add. 

Writing about this time in your life could ultimately serve as an emotionally cleansing experience. You may find that returning to that time and digesting your feelings could give you a different perspective, offering you clarity and the opportunity to decide exactly which specifics in these thoughts and stories will make the final cut of your memoir project.

Wishing you the best in your writing journey. Your stories are a priceless legacy!
Mary Anne Benedetto is the owner of A Writer’s Presence, LLC, a writer, speaker, blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor, and an affiliate teacher with the The Memoir Network.  Author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, she offers beneficial tips, hints and critical steps in memoir writing in order to remove the “overwhelmed” factor in memoir projects.


Visit Mary Anne at http://www.awriterspresence.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Your Story Matters-Segment 8



 
Your Story Matters!
Memoir Writing Instructor Answers Your Questions

Every life is made up of stories—some are deliriously happy tales, others are devastatingly sad, and our life experiences represent every imaginable kind of emotion in between. We all have family history and  life stories, and the sad truth is that if we do not preserve them, they are permanently gone. There is no rewind. There is no going back to capture them.





Q8. I have started my memoirs so many times and get bogged down at about age 11. I feel overwhelmed when I think about the scope of this project spanning so many years. Do you have any tips on how to proceed and help me not want to stuff into a drawer what I have written and just give up?



A8. THE MEMORY LIST-Okay, this is a basic, essential step. When I studied memoir writing under Denis Ledoux’s teaching-see http://www.thememoirnetwork.com, one of the first important tools he told us about was creating the Memory List. This is where you start with a piece of lined paper and begin to jot down any memories that come to mind—not paragraphs, not even whole sentences—just enough to remind you later of what you were thinking about. It is not in chronological order, but just any highlights that you can recall that you may like to write about—it does not even mean that you HAVE to write about every item, but this is a great start. And you continue adding to the list any time you think of more events, people and places from your journey through life.



The memory list is a brilliant idea from a renowned memoir expert, but I humbly decided to take it one step further. I found that some people (including me) prefer to sort of compartmentalize their thoughts. So I came up with what I call the Decades from the Memory Bank Lists.



·         Start with one sheet of lined paper for every decade that you have been alive.

·         Sheet 1 will have the heading: Years 0-9 and add what those years were

·         Sheet 2 will be Years 10-19 and add what those years were

·         Sheet 3 will be Years 20-29 and add what those years were



And so on until you have a separate sheet for each decade of your life including the current one.



As you sit down to think about your memories, jot down what enters your mind, writing on the appropriate sheet for the decade of that memory. Within each sheet, you do not need to put the items in chronological order—they just need to be shown within the correct decade.



You will find that one memory definitely leads to another, and as you start jotting down memories, sometimes the thoughts will enter your mind faster than you can write down the key words.  Just take your time, and do not feel rushed or pressured.



Your objective is to recall as many pertinent events, feelings, people, places and situations that had an impact on your life as you possibly can.



Examples from my lists are:



Years 0-9 1952-1961:



Thought Aunt Sis (MY MOM’S AUNT) was actually a witch because I saw her with her hair down, and it was very long and gray. At age eight, I had only previously seen her hair tightly twirled into a neatly bobby pinned bun.



First time I saw the Pacific Ocean in Southern California-completely mesmerized





Years 10-19 1962-1971:



Favorite teacher of all time-Mr. Don Myers-5th & 6th grades



Another great teacher-Mr. Robert Brimhall-11th & 12th grade English



Wild and crazy experience at Fillmore West in San Francisco in 1969





Years 20-29 1972-1981:



First job in Albany, NY



Birth of son, Kenneth Scott-God’s gift to me



Think about stories that represent lessons learned, turning points, significant influences.   If you get stuck, try writing this on a separate sheet of paper:



If _________________had not occurred, I would never have _______________. This is another tool to get the memory juices flowing.



Just keep adding, adding, adding to your Decades from the Memory Bank Lists, and this will be your resource material from which you will write many stories. When you are comfortably settled in to write, you can refer to these lists, choose one of the entries and allow the words to flow onto the paper or through your fingers on the keyboard. 

Even if you are not sure you want to share a particular story, you can still jot it down on your List. You can even write the story, but whether or not you choose to include it in your final product is up to you in the end.



If you go blank when you are working on your memory list, write on each decade sheet where you lived during those years. Try to visualize the residences. What was happening in your life at that time?



Think about this question: How has your life been blessed?  Or perhaps you feel just the opposite—how has your life been cursed? Write about your feelings on this topic. Again, you may not end up sharing all of it in your final product, but they prompt a reflection of memories.



You do not want to try to complete all sheets in one writing session. That could prove to be really stressful.  These lists will take shape over time, so patiently keep adding to them as you think of more memories. It is also a good idea to keep a small note pad handy—even on your nightstand. You never know when a memory will enter your mind. It could be in the waiting room at the dentist’s office or when you have just crawled into your cozy bed at night.



Try to visualize your great, great-grandchildren reading the stories you have written. Remember that this is the only way they will ever know who you really were.



Take a few moments and start your memory lists. You will be amazed at the ideas generated. 

A very special thank you to Denis Ledoux for this incredibly beneficial step. His program offers methods of digging under the soil through the many existing layers and unearthing our memories during the writing process.



Remember-Your stories are a priceless legacy!

Mary Anne Benedetto is the owner of A Writer’s Presence, LLC, a writer, speaker, blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor, and an affiliate teacher with the The Memoir Network.  Author of  7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time!, she offers beneficial tips, hints and critical steps in memoir writing in order to remove the “overwhelmed” factor in memoir projects.


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