“The trees down the boulevard stand naked in thought,
– D. H. Lawrence, Winter in the Boulevard, 1916
Most of us think of the New Year as a time of new beginnings. We have been hibernating against long cold nights, or days of wind, snow, and rain. Even in California, our winter, though mild, invites contemplation. The stark emptiness of landscapes without leaves is striking. We can learn from this paring away of excess, a revelation of the bare structure of trees and shrubs. As D. H. Lawrence expresses in the above quote, we confront our own deepest nature and questioning as we look at the naked trees. In the simplicity of a bare tree, we find assurance that even our simplest ideas will burst forth into bloom in the spring.
As writers, we find ourselves searching for a central idea, kernel of wisdom or transformation, the revelation residing at the heart of our stories. We write ourselves into the core of the story, exploring the branches of our ideas, characters, and settings. This kind of wandering and exploration is necessary as we traverse our mental landscapes. Editing is like pruning, as we take away the unnecessary ideas and words, but at the beginning of our writing, we need to have the freedom of writing everything down before we know what needs to be pruned. We need permission to wander, to muse, contemplate. I hope the darker days and long nights are a fertile time for your creativity.
This is a good time to make your Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions:
• I will be brave with my writing.
• I will write for 10 minutes a day.
• I will read good literature to stimulate my creativity.
• I will focus on the positive aspects of my writing and not listen to that pesky inner critic.
• I will join a community of writers and creative people to feed my writing soul.
During the last year, I have marveled at how much power there is in memoir writing. In my workshops and coaching, I observe amazing and breathtaking changes, often quite surprising to the writers.
Many come to writing saying, “I’m not really a writer,” or “I don’t plan to write much, I just want to try a few things,” but find themselves drawn to giving free rein to thoughts, memories, and feelings not shared or even known before.
The writing turns into a surprising set of discoveries, as if following a path made of silver stones to see where they lead. The writing is like magic, coming from nowhere, and takes off in directions the writer couldn’t predict.
Many writers put pen on paper with an idea or intention only to find ourselves writing something else. Writing can seem slightly scary, like a semi-wild animal on the page, ready to rush into trouble, dark forests or dangerous caves without warning. That’s the pleasure of writing—you discover nothing bad will happen to you, and you begin your writing journey with a frisson of excitement.
Writing is a journey into the unknown with the only danger of pen on paper, into an unknown territory that is ourselves. We journey into the magic realms of who we are, who we have been, and where we are going. All hero or heroine journeys lead to the unknown, contain elements that are unexplainable, and require guides and companions to help find the way. Your writing group, your mentors, and fellow authors are your guides.
I hope your New Year is full of many rich and creative journeys.
Write for 5-20 minutes on each idea. Save the vignettes to assemble later.
1. What spiritual ritual do you have for this time of year?
3. Describe the town you grew up in during winter. What did it look like, smell like, feel like? Any special events or happenings that you remember?
4. Write five New Year’s goals or resolutions that will help you focus your life for the future.
5. Write a story about who you were, what your favorite objects, toys, and people when you were ten years old.
Winter is a good time to reflect and write your memoir stories. My new series of classes has just begun, and there are openings in the Women’s Memoir Circle Thursday nights in the Berkeley, CA area.
Thursday Night Women’s Circle Learn more….
January 17 – April 3
Each week women of all ages and backgrounds meet to write and talk about motherhood, single dating, careers, romance, memories of family, and their spiritual quests. The writers use both poetry and prose to capture memories and to explore the richness of their lives. We write about important turning points–the lighter, humorous moments along with dark nights of the soul. There is laughter and a few tears, and most of all the witnessing of our stories, an important component of healing and moving into the future.
Saturday Spiritual Autobiography and Memoir Circle
January 12 – March 29
Have you ever said, “I need to write my story”? If not now, when? Memories and Memoirs offers a choice of memoir writing classes, workshops, and retreats to help you get started and keep going.
Memories carry deep personal meaning in our lives and for our sense of self. Through exploring them we discover our own unique stories to craft as memoir or fiction. Join our supportive classes to help zap your inner critic. We offer writing tools and exercises each week in class and encouraging, positive feedback. Write the stories you have been meaning to write, whether for your own development and healing or to leave as a legacy for others.
Memoir Writing Retreat with Linda Joy Myers
April 4-6, 2008 Learn more….
Calistoga, California (in the Napa Valley)
This evocative and meditative memoir writing workshop in the heart of the Napa Valley is an opportunity for you to come away with 8-10 new stories for your memoir in a safe, relaxing environment. Experienced retreat leader, therapist, and prize-winning author Linda Joy Myers is your guide through writing exercises and discussions about the things that all memoir writers ask: how do I write the truth and avoid the anger of my family? Is my story interesting? How do I begin and can I ever finish it? How do I tell the stories that have been secreted in my heart?
You will be received with full presence and unconditional acceptance. Visualizations, memory exercises, drawing, and group sharing open up the well of stories for you to draw from. You will leave with several new stories, a timeline, and future writing plans. The retreat is inspirational and provides a safe place for you to explore.
The National Association of Memoir Writers
In February, you will hear more about this new vibrant organization geared to the needs of memoir writers!
The Story Circle Network presents
Stories from the Heart IV
February 1-3, 2008 Learn more….
Women from all over the country gather to celebrate story telling and creativity. I attended several of these terrific conferences, and found wonderful connections, new friends, and a whole lot of inspiration. And the weather is pretty good there in February! Austin has a very developed community of artists and authentic Texas charm. And the women at Story Circle have such heart—the conference is well named. You will come back with a bunch of new stories and a lot of writing friends who care about the same things you do—stories, memoir writing, and the value of capturing memories for our own development or for a legacy for our family.
Contests and Publications
Entering contests is a good way to push your writing skills and hone your work. There are literally hundreds of venues where you can enter your work. Use Google to surf the web for sites that are looking for publications and lists of contests.
San Francisco Writers Conference contest
The SFWC Writing Contest—sponsored by the San Francisco Writers Conference.
Go to www.sfwriters.org for contest and conference info. You do not have to attend the conference to enter the contest.
Journal 2008 The Power of Writing Conference
June 18-22, 2008
Another mentor on my path of learning about the healing power of writing has been Kathleen Adams, founder of Journal Therapy and the author of several books focusing on the therapeutic power of writing. Kay teaches classes, retreats, and workshops for therapists and for writers nationally, and my interview with her about the healing power of writing is on my website for audio download.
In June, 2008, Kathleen is hosting the first ever conference on writing as healing—Journal Conference 2008—The Power of Writing. This conference brings together the important people in the therapeutic, memoir, spiritual autobiography world such as Dr. James Pennebaker, Christina Baldwin, Tristine Rainier, and Kathleen Adams—four of the leading thinkers and theorists in the field of therapeutic writing headline a faculty of 40.
Six mix-and-match tracks (Writing, Therapy, Healing/Wellness, Memoir/Life Story, Spirituality, and Writing in Community) allow a fully customizable conference experience. Special guest appearances by award-winning poet Michael Blumenthal and creative arts therapies troupe MUSE. Continuing education hours are available!
Questions? Call 888-421-2298 (in Colorado or from cell phone: 303-986-6460)
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