Friday, March 9, 2012

Writing...Family History, or Otherwise

I went to an interesting seminar last night on writing and family history. Why? It seems like all of us want to publish something about our family tree, learn a better way to tell the story, or maybe take the story of Grandma chasing Grandpa with a frying pan into a fiction story for the mass market.

A writer hosted the seminar and gave an interesting talk on mostly learning to write down the stories, and letting the other stuff come later. It was a good reminder of what my creative writing teachers always told me - start writing, and the spelling, grammar, paragraph structure, and narrative structure will come later. Our third-fourth grade teachers who graded us on only structure and grammar really did us a disservice in setting up our brains to think that is how "writing" is wired.

The exercise she did in class was abbreviated, since there were so many of us, but I enjoyed it. It started by thinking of a favorite memory. My partner and I couldn't think of one at first, but the act of talking about our past made a really solid memory pop out. For me it was the year I moved to Minnesota when it snowed 30" on Halloween. For her it was a regular trip to San Francisco, but it was the first trip where she became the navigator. Both of us struggled to recall all five senses, but in the end, both of us realized that the value was in recalling at all. Working the five senses questions in "What did you see/smell/taste/touch/hear" actually strengthened the memory considerably.

Her biggest suggestion that I am going to start taking away is to write one "I remember" each day. It doesn't matter if its a Facebook post, a blog entry, a journal entry, a full blown story, or just a note to a loved one. If we try to remember something each day, we'll have the writing to share in the joy of an interesting life, even if our level of interesting is the day we went to the grocery store and tried a new yogurt.