On Writing Memoir
I started my third writing class this week. For my birthday last year, I enrolled in a narrative non-fiction class at Decatur Writing Studio. I loved the experience and have since signed up for two more classes. In this first session of my third class, we went around the room with introductions and our reasons for writing memoir.
In the class of twelve, there were stories of suicides from children and mothers, of losing a spouse to early onset Alzheimer’s, of cancer and heart attacks, of loss and #metoo. It turns out that darkness and hard times make us go deeper into the depths. Of ourselves, of the world, of our community and love, our capacity for loss and grief. We discover new things in the dark and find ourselves desiring to write our way out, to bring these new discoveries into the light.
It matters little if we write beautifully or fumble through it. I think the process is what matters, the plumbing of depths and mapping of grief. Our teacher described writing memoir this week as looking up a sky full of stars, pinpricks of our experiences filling the sky with light bright and faint, twinkling now and millions of years ago. And we are the ones who get to draw constellations, to find patterns and lessons and magic in the moments that have made up our days.
One of my friends in the class (who was in the last class with me as well), said that her goal is to learn how to write about hard things with more levity. How to inject joy into the dark places and words she pens. And this is the thing, isn’t it? How do we look at our lives, stare into the hard parts of our story and the dark recesses of our souls and discover a capacity for love and joy.