Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Power of Image in Journal and Memoir Writing

Has an image ever come to your mind, stayed there during the day, at night, in your dreams? An image can work as a powerful writing tool; from it we journal to a deeper place, craft it into memoir writing.

In my memoir Again in a Heartbeat, the image of forsythia stayed with me throughout the writing of that book; a metaphor for the fleeting beauty of spring, bright, glorious, quickly fading like young love . . . and untimely death.

So I challenge you to find an image, use it as a writing prompt, a way to journal to a deeper place.

In May Sarton’s Journal Of a Solitude, she begins the book describing an elegant spray of white lilies and a branch of peony leaves in a Japanese jar on her mantel. “When I am alone, the flowers are really seen, I can pay attention to them. They are felt as presences. Without them I would die,” she writes. From there she goes on to write about her life, her thoughts, her fears,

A teacher in a recent writing workshop, Susan Tiberghien, whose wonderful memoir Side by Side, Writing Your Love Story about her long and passionate marriage . . . a book which also includes writing prompts, said in class her image was a sailboat. She didn’t know why, but that sailboat kept appearing and so she would use it as a way to write.

You can also create a dialogue with your image, Susan noted. (Next week I'll write about strategy in writing and the numerous and uniquely creative ways to tell story.)

My image was the crepe myrtle blooming in profusion on the campus where our writing workshop was held. I wrote this:


A pink bobble-headed blossom, crepe myrtle sways in the summer breeze. My thoughts drift to my mother. I think of her often these days. She died in August and my own life is now well into the "second  . . . and final act." I see her arranging brightly-colored zinnias of deep red, pink, yellow and orange, cut from her garden next to the side of our house by the Rose of Sharon bush that blooms every July near my birthday. Mother places the zinnias in a crystal bowl inherited from her parents. She possesses an innate, artistic flair, somewhat at odds with her life, but not her fragile and tender heart. I watch her. Perhaps, in that moment, I cherished a woman’s touch . . . the immeasurable importance of beauty, of family, of memories . . . something I, as a mother, have tried to recreate in my own home for my sons.


Another image this past weekwater sparkling in sunlight. I had traveled to Acadia National Park in Maine with my son and water is everywhere, around every corner, appearing at unexpected places.
The water dances in sunlight under azure skies. My spirit dances with the water; it tells me to "be hopeful . . . life is about the unexpected". . . helps lift this shroud of depression; floating me to contentment in this place, at this moment, at this time on a Thursday July afternoon.


Use images to journal to a deeper place. Which leads to this quote by William Zinsser, “The subject you best know is yourself.” How better to explore your life, thoughts and memories than through images?
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