Treasured Objects Travel Time and Distance

This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge hosted by The Daily Post at WordPress.com. This week’s prompt is “object.” 

* * *

He was only four the first time his mother took his siblings and him to the orphanage. His sister and brother were older than he, and when it was time to leave, his mother couldn’t bear to leave one so young. He returned home with her.

Their father had recently died of a massive heart attack at age 36. In 1905 the availability of income for women was minimal, and my grandmother chose to give up her children in order for all to survive. A hard decision for any parent.

Fast forward four years and my father is eight and standing once again on the threshold of the orphanage, but this time he stands with his stepfather. His mother has died, and the stepfather doesn’t want him. This time he is left there.

His sister has left the orphanage in service to a family in the area, but his brother still resides there. And this is where he lives until he is apprenticed to a small newspaper in Tennessee at age 15 or 16.

In 1984, my husband and I return home from work and collect the day’s mail. Among the several bills and letters is a package from a cousin in Tampa, Florida. She is the daughter of my dad’s sister. We met some years before our parents died and have maintained a correspondence but I’m not accustomed to receiving packages from her.

The package is the first thing I tear into when we get inside. Nothing could be more enticing to me than this box which has suffered some wear along the way from Florida to Oregon. Not even a notice I had won Publisher’s Clearing House! Oh, right — they’d show up at the door.

Once it is open, the contents take my breath away. The first time I have seen images of my father as an infant, a boy child, a young man. Every photograph I’d seen up until now dated to after mom and dad married in 1945.

Where did these come from? I tear into the box again and there it is — a note from my cousin. She had found these in her mother’s trunk, and her note explains that two of the photos are of my grandparents.

This was as joyous as holding a newborn — a branch of my family tree was in my hands. Here was a grandmother I looked like, my son looked like my father, and the all too familiar stance was in the photo of Dad when he was 15 or 16. What treasures! I count them among my greatest possessions. Objects which bring to life branches of my family tree.

I understand the prompt was singular, but these photos, as objects, are inseparable. They are a group object in my life and will never be anything else.

Memoir Writers’ Resources Series | Jerry Waxler, His Blog and His Book

This is the fifth post in this series, which has an infinite number of parts. Therefore, there is no “Part 1 of a #;” it will simply continue until the well dries up. Previous posts are listed below.

* * *

If you have not heard of Jerry Waxler, we need to correct that with this post.

It is my pleasure today to share with you the excellent resources from Jerry’s blog and books, as well as the wealth of information contained in Jerry’s expertise not only as a writer but also in his roles of therapist and teacher.

I first became acquainted with Jerry when I joined the Lifewriters Forum founded by Sharon Lippincott and Jerry. The forum provides a safe environment for memoir writers and story tellers alike to come together to share their thoughts, writings, and offer tips and lessons learned.

The more I read of Jerry’s new posts and replies on the forum the more intrigued I became about just who Jerry Waxler was. It seemed there was a lot going on in his mind and he wanted to share it all to the extent he could.

Enter Jerry’s blog, Memory Writers Network. Here I began to get a real sense of where Jerry had been, the path he had followed, and the current work he was doing in all these various communities where he was speaking, teaching, and writing, not to mention helping others along the way. I strongly encourage you to visit Memory Writers Network, if you have not done so. Jerry offers well written essays on the work others are doing and have done.

Additionally Jerry shares his own story and discusses in those posts his beliefs and thoughts on memory and evoking our memories as well as story structure and writing. From time to time, Jerry will review another writer’s book, and current count on his blog shows a total of at least 85 memoirs reviewed to date.

Then there are the works Jerry himself has written. Jerry’s first book, titled Learn to Write Your Memoir in Four Weeks, is available for purchase at this link. Learn to Write is a step-by-step guide in how to reclaim your memories and begin to record them, including techniques to organize your story and present it in an interesting way.

Most recently, Jerry authored The Memoir Revolution: A Social Shift that Uses Your Story to Heal, Connect, and InspireIt is available in paperback and Kindle versions via Amazon at this link.

Previously, I reviewed The Memoir Revolution on this blog. You can read my review here.

My observations and opinions in my review still stand, and I find myself referring to Jerry’s work in this book often while writing my memoir.

With Jerry’s combination of blog posts, teaching sessions as listed on his blog, his involvement in communities like Lifewriters Forum, and his own published works, he offers the memoir writer of today a vast array of resources to draw on.

I strongly encourage you to visit Jerry’s blog many times–it takes a while to absorb it all. However, Jerry is well-organized. For example, there is an index available to the essays/posts he has written and interviews he has conducted with other writers, teachers, and authorities in the genre.

Q4U: Is there something you’re struggling with in your memoir writing? Have you reached a point where you are questioning your own ability to write memoir? Or is there something else bothering you about your writing?

Previous Posts in the Series:

  1. The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith
  2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  3. The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers
  4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Will Exercise and Breaks Enhance Your Creativity?

Via Pixabay
Via Pixabay

Winter has now deposited her snow-white goodness from coast to coast. Some of us are snowed in for the first time this season. Others have been snowed in so long they must feel like Eskimos.

Couple the winter weather doldrums with writing most of the day, and what do you have?

Likely, a grumpy writer with aches and pains and stiff joints.

We’ve all heard the quotes, and we try to adhere to good advice given. But let’s take a moment and reflect on what Mary Heaton Vorse had to say about writing:

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

One should ask though if Vorse intended for the seat of your pants to maintain contact with the chair for extended periods of time.

How to remedy the bodily damage we’re doing while sitting all day?

Exercise! And if given an opportunity, physical exercise just might enhance creativity.

Here are some tips for getting out of the chair and improving your creativity at the same time:

  • Get up out of that chair and go take a walk. Just 15-20 minutes, a walk around the block will not only relieve your joints and spine but also feed your brain with some much-needed oxygen via fresh air. Or if you have a gym membership, put it to good use and head there three or four times a week.
  • Play a musical instrument? Take a few minutes during the day to enjoy that creative experience. Perhaps the music you select will feed that part of your brain searching for artistic phrasing in your written work.
  • Meditation won’t exercise your body but it is calming and relieves the stresses that build in our bodies as we sit in front of a desk and computer. And the mind-clearing benefits of meditation will only enhance your writing.
  • Build a rhythm into your writing life so that you have some time off during the week, when everything writing disengages. Try to keep your life on normal footing, especially if you have a family. Meet a friend for coffee, catch up with a neighbor over the fence, call your kids and grandkids. This sounds like a no-brainer but it is essential to keep yourself healthy, inspired, and in touch with others.
  • Daily inspiration will keep you feeling good about yourself and your writing. Listen to a TED talk you’ve wanted to hear, maybe you missed the last NAMW conference and the audio file is waiting on your desktop, or perhaps there is an audio book you listen to. Find a way to be inspired by others.
  • Lastly, do something that matters. Whether it’s writing a blog post on something that matters to writers, or volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or babysitting grandkids so the kids can have a date night — do something that matters. You feel great afterwards!
Via Google Images
Via Google Images

The current weather situation in many parts of our country doesn’t entice one to go outdoors, but many of these suggestions don’t need the outdoors for exercise. But keep in mind that a brief step outside to get the mail or to fill the bird feeder will offer an intake of fresh air that can’t be beat for brightening up those brain cells for the next few hours of writing.

Q4U: What do you do to keep physically and mentally fit when writing? I’d love if you’d share below so that we can benefit one another with our ideas and suggestions.

Tips for Participating in Writing Challenges

On the first day of the new year, Jeff Goins’ 500 Words A Day Writing Challenge began. Jeff’s posts on this challenge had entered my inbox. I read them, and I thought: “I already have goals set. Probably shouldn’t sign up.”

With each post I read, I was tempted. Jeff makes a good case for his challenge. You’ll note in his post at the link above Jeff shares the following:

Here’s what I know about writing: It happens in small bites. Step by step. One little chunk at a time.

This sounded easier. I pondered the possibilities for three days and on January 4th I began the challenge.

I talked with friends who had signed up. And Jeff’s rules for the challenge made it seem like a reasonable challenge to help shape a new habit of writing daily. After all, Jeff’s own philosophy of 500 Words says it all:

My 500 Words is a 31-day challenge designed to help you develop a daily writing habit and become a better writer.

I will be the first to tell you that I didn’t write every day. This is obvious since I didn’t begin until January 4th. But there were other days where life did intervene, and I didn’t write. A longstanding rule in our home before and after retirement, Sundays are reserved for family time and to honor the Sabbath. I knew those days I wouldn’t be writing.

At the end of January 31st, I had written a total of 16,011 words, many more than I had written per month when I started the challenge.

And the challenge goes on even with Jeff in Africa and February underway. A strong community has grown on Facebook where we gather to record our successes and not so successful days. With January’s success, I intend to stick with the challenge in February.

No matter the context of the writing challenge you choose to take part in, the following tips may be helpful to you:

  • Set aside a time each day specifically for writing, hopefully away from distractions.
  • Do not edit as you write–free write. There’ll be time later for editing.
  • Remember: This is to help develop the habit of writing every day.
  • If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Life intervenes, and there’s always tomorrow.
  • If you don’t make the goal each day, at least write something.
  • Hopefully, your writing will be on a specific project but perhaps it won’t. That’s OK too.
  • Allow yourself freedom to write and let the words flow.

My takeaway:I now realize I can sit down and write almost every day, and I can forgive myself on the days that I don’t. And I finished the 31-day 500 Word Challenge!

My goal now is to write every single day. Writing is my passion, and my passion feeds the rest of my life. 

And for you, why not consider coming along with us in February to get a feel for how this challenge works? You just might like it!