Monday, September 10, 2012

Memoir - The Challenge: Understanding Yourself

At our recent writing workshop we learned that memoir is a craft that requires structure, good storytelling technique, a beginning, middle and end.  We learned the necessity of engaging our readers so that the story is broad enough to contain a message and universal appeal.
We learned about the "memoir revolution"; people writing their stories and putting them on the Internet for a larger audience than family and friends to enjoy.  But the most important lesson - memoir offers the invaluable challenge of making sense of our lives  . . . of understanding ourselves.

Our life, our experiences, the people we have loved and lost, admired and detested, comprise the "palette" of a lifetime.  We hold the palette and begin "painting" our stories with the brushstrokes of the artist.    
The  journey of struggles, overcoming obstacles and moving forward with "agency" or  action to reach closure is one where the author is the guide.  So as our workshop instructor, Jerry Waxler noted: "Writing a memoir takes patience, tenacity and desire."  Our stories are steeped in psychology of self-reflection, as well as meaning.

 Until we understand ourselves, we cannot understand others, let alone write about them.

To quote Socrates: The "unexamined life is not worth living."

It is always good to remember that writing our stories is also fun and represents a generosity of spirit and willingness to connect with others.

I want to thank Jerry Waxler for leading us in an all-day discussion of memoir, complete with detailed instruction on how to write the story of our life, providing us with writing prompts, exercises to organize our memories, and his own personal insight into our individual stories and how we might tell them. 

Most of all I thank the writers who came to the Art of Life Writing workshop for placing your trust in the safety and support of the Writing Circle  . . . your gift to me. 

Highlighted here are comments you made at the conclusion of our workshop:
  • "I loved hearing everyone's stories." 
  •  "I will take Jerry's suggestion about having a daily writing prompt." 
  • "I liked the focus on the elements of a story:  the arc with crisis, obstacles and resolution."

  • "I enjoyed the interaction, the community atmosphere.  It opens me up to expression."
  • I enjoyed learning how to organize my story, understand the importance of chronology.  It was helpful to be instructed in   the basic building blocks of scene, character, desire, obstacle.
  • "Encouragement and understanding were very strong.  A lot of my issues are very uncomfortable to talk about.  I felt comfortable to write and read without judgment, which I think will make it easier to be honest and provocative."
  • "I enjoyed the group.  Some stories were quite interesting and inspiring.  Being with aspiring writers has been very helpful."
  • "Very stimulating . . . listening to everyone's writing."
  • "Today's workshop was filled with information, insights and collegiality."


Unknown said...

Great article! There have been several posted lately along this same theme and with each I gather a different nugget. Without true understanding of one's self, it is difficult to move forward. That understanding leads to positive thoughts and actions thereby overcoming the negatives which often try to thwart success.

kathleen pooler said...

Thanks for sharing the memoir pearls from you and Jerry. You are spreading the good word about the power of memoir to entertain, inspire , transform and heal!

Susan G. Weidener said...

Sharla and Kathleen,

Writing workshops are on the rise, too, especially among people in their 50s and 60s. Jerry and I had 14 writers attend this workshop. At this stage of life, telling and writing stories remains one of the most reliable and true paths to self-discovery.