LEARNING TO WRITE

Here’s the thing about writing a memoir — it’s extremely challenging. When working in the captivating land of memory, emotions, and time … how could it be otherwise? There is much to write about, yet, paradoxically, there is little to write about. As writers, we have to tease out milestones, memorable dialogue, fading landscapes sketched somewhere in our mind, and then we have to discover the relevance of this — to ourselves, to those who eventually read our books.

I think most memoirs, though they purport to be about this
particular time or this person you met, are really about the effect
that person or time had on you.
– Rosemary Mahoney
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Apple trees are weaved into the memoir I’m working on.
Significant as a young girl, and again, as a gift to my son one Easter weekend.
Three trees he planted and cared for — trees that outlived him, and that I
still enjoy seeing. Somehow they made it, somehow … they survived. And that
simple feat has inspired me in countless ways.
2014072695101021 As you can see, they weren’t pruned or shaped because we lost Matt about a year after he planted them. Nonetheless, the trees are alive; they are bearing fruit. But writing about them was challenging because my grandmother also had apple trees that I loved as a young girl. Three bountiful trees right outside her bedroom window that are firmly lodged in my memory. Their fragrance in spring; their shade in summer; their fruit in fall. So I had to figure out the connection between her trees, and the ones we gave Matt.
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“Write about small, self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory.
If you remember them, it’s because they contain a larger truth that your readers
will recognize in their own lives. Think small and you’ll wind up
finding the big themes in your family saga.” ― William Knowlton Zinsser
This is an excellent point, from Zinsser. Intuitively, I also sensed a “larger truth” lurking in the small, seemingly insignificant moments that are carved into my soul like a small sculpture. I remember certain facial expressions, words spoken by the eyes alone … and as a writer of memoir, I’ve dug further to see why such memories are still with me. What are they telling me? How can I write about them so others feel what I felt in that moment?

“We tell the story to get them back, to capture the traces of footfalls through the snow.”
― Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Starting work on my memoir during the summer of ’08, the book has been a steady and demanding companion for the past seven (almost) years. A few drafts along the way felt “complete,” but as the days ticked by, and I waded into the manuscript again, I ran across areas that weren’t quite finished. I’m still doing that. Something long forgotten suddenly comes back to me. Working with memories is unpredictable to say the least. And the well never runs dry because we don’t forget love; we don’t forget a son who only lived to be 27.

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Sadly, the world would have us “move on” after loss, yet, there has never been greater nonsense. Certainly, if you are still locked into a narrow, linear mindset, as opposed to a spiritual viewpoint, you might think time changes things. But not really. Only the surface changes, external forms and such. Spiritual connections, profound and true, don’t end, and can’t be replaced by what is “current” or “here” on a purely visual level. Instead, the past, present, and future (given the illusion of time) continually merge into something that encompasses the “all.” Unlike fads and trends, new this and that, we don’t leave people behind–certainly not those we’ve loved and lost–like yesterday’s car or cell phone. They, too, are part of the mystery that never dies. – dh

What is a lasting spiritual connection really pointing to; what do you think?

The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

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