|April, 2010 LifeJournal Newsletter
Yes, we are one third of the way through the year! If you resolved to make writing a priority this year (and even if you haven’t!), here’s a chance to stick with or renew your pledge (or simply take a great writing class!): In May, Sheila Bender teaches a online, flex-time class called “A Shot of Journal Juice.” The online, flex-schedule class starts on Monday, May 10th and runs for 4 weeks (ends June 4th). If you have ever considered taking a writing class but weren’t sure if you were up to the task, Sheila is as encouraging and as helpful a writing coach as you’ll find. And if you’ve already taken a writing class with Sheila, you’ll know how exceptional, practical, and high-quality her classes are. (No worries if you’ve taken her classes before, she’ll always has new material.) Learn more about Sheila’s May online, flex time class.
Also, if you haven’t yet joined IAJW, now is the time. (If you enjoy the LifeJournal newsletters, you’ll love IAJW. Think of IAJW as the LifeJournal newsletter on steriods plus a whole playground of journal writing exercises, interaction, and more: There’s a large library of journal-related articles from the top names in journaling; monthly telecasts with such journaling luminaries as Kay Adams, Gabriele Rico, Lucia Capacchione, Sheila Bender, Eric Maisel; e-prompts sent every three days; a discussion form and more!) This month’s members-only telechat is with author, creativity coach and certified journal teacher Tina Games-Evans. Her speciality is helping mothers find their way through their the conflicts, joys, and struggles of mothering and uses journaling as a primary tool. Learn more and sign up about the telecast on Thursday, May 13: “A Happy Mother Makes the Best Mother: Journaling Your Way Toward a More Authentic Life.”
The article in this month’s newsletter is about writing a memoir, by using your journal as the jumping off point. The Timeline in LifeJournal is a perfect tool to use as part of your memoir toolkit.
If you are interested in pursuing writing a memoir, I encourage you to join the National Association for Memoir Writers: NAMW.org. A wide variety of workshops, teleseminars, articles and workshops offer practical information to not only get you started, but which also guide you through the entire process of writing a high-quality memoir. I highly recommend that you visit and become a member to NAMW!
PS LifeJournal is a PERFECT gift for you mother this Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 9th)! If you call me (877-456-8762) to order a CD by tomorrow 5 PM Eastern time, May 4th, we’ll send the CD anywhere in the US using US Priority Mail, at no extra cost than the usual $8.00 shipping and handling cost.
PSS From time to time I recommend excellent programs/products that would compliment your journaling, and I may receive a commission. I only suggest the highest quality programs or products.
LifeJournal as a Part of the Memoir Writing “Toolkit”
Writing your memoir is a great opportunity to not only tell your story to others, but in the process of writing it to learn from your own life. How to begin? With your journal!
A memoir is a series of your life stories which are stitched together to form a coherent whole for an audience. The memoir requires that you make meaning out of your own life events and then present the reader with a point of view, showing a change in your character, attitude, and behavior.
Journals, on the other hand, are a conglomeration of disparate vignettes, inner musings, quick character sketches, emotional outpourings, boring or anxious ramblings, overheard conversations, unrelated tangents, and poorly written sentences written for your eyes only. However, think of your journal as the building blocks and the reference material from which you write your memoir.
If you have kept a journal for years and years you may be lucky enough to have written about experiences that you are including in your memoir. In that case, you’ve struck gold! Lying within your journal are details about the actual event, written from your point of view during that particular time. Sift through these journal entries for clues about who you were and what your attitudes and belief systems were. This is an invaluable goldmine for creating your memoir.
If you’ve kept a journal for a few years, but it doesn’t include the time period of your memoir, don’t despair. Your journal holds many clues about who you are. Perhaps you need a conversation in your memoir that shows how you and your sister treated each other as kids. Search your journal for an entry in which you and your sister more recently interacted in a parallel situation. Or, equally possible, you may see that a friend of yours today acts as a surrogate sister and you find journal entries about that friend that echo past relationship patterns between you and your sister. Such journal entries will offer insights and great source materials to use when writing your memoir.
If you have never kept a journal, it’s not too late to start. Your journal can be a repository of memories as well as filled with information about your life today. Remember that journaling is informal and the process invites you to write about memories whenever they surface. For example, if you just wake from a dream that includes people or places from the past, immediately describe it in full detail in your journal. Or, if you are eating dinner at a friend’s house and the silverware pattern is the same one that your family had when growing up, a flood of memories of eating family dinners will appear. Jot down those memories before you lose them! (If your friend is a good friend, ask him/her if you can borrow a fork or a spoon and use that as a touchstone to bring back memories.)
Click the “Life History” application button to open a Life History journal entry whenever memories bubble up. Enter the (approximate) date when the event took place.
Write any and every shred of information that you remember of the event. Include the details–about your feelings and thoughts about the event as you lived it, and try to include such sensing details as the temperature and the quality of light, the odors that are associated with the setting you were in, the sounds that you heard. Close your eyes and bring yourself back to that time as much as possible. You might write in present tense to foster the immediateness and freshness of the experience. No need to concern yourself with grammar, spelling, or any of the rules of writing. Just get the words and phrases out—-no need for full sentences if that slows you down. No need to worry about whether you are making sense to potential readers. Just get the information out of your head and into the entry! There are never too many details or too many tangents in a journal. It’s better to have too much material that you have to cull through and omit in your memoir, rather than not having enough.
You’ll probably want to assign a topic(s) to the entry or to particular passages. Consider assigning such topics as the dominant emotion felt in the vignette, the people involved if the people are recurring characters in your life, or the place within the arc of the memoir where the story fits–beginning, middle, or end. Assigning topics to entries and passages will help when you begin stitching the bits and pieces into a larger whole. You’ll be able to perform searches, allowing you to quickly find the relevant entries or passages which will be the source material of your memoir.
The process of writing a memoir entails more than simply cutting and pasting journal entries together, of course! But your journal–and LifeJournal, in particular– is an excellent incubator where you can gather, store, and organize your life stories before you start creating your memoir. I strongly suggest that you learn from experienced memoirists, such as those in the National Association for Memoir Writing to guide you in your journey from journal entries to a completed memoir.
“What we are doing at the moment is more that just one thing added to the rest; it is a memoir.”–Unknown author
“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.”–Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC)