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Memoir writing and looking at the past with a new perspective

My mother recently told me that I've always wanted to share my life story with others. She said that when I was three, I'd run over to strangers at the grocery store and tell them how I had used my big-girl potty all by myself. Perhaps memoir writing is an extension of this primal desire to share what's important to us what we find uniquely beautiful about life, and how we got from where we've been to where we are now. But sometimes, this manner of sharing gets a little lonely. At least for me. I lose perspective and start wondering who cares, and sometimes I forget what inspired me to want to share in the first place. So, when a friend of mine cut out a flyer in the newspaper advertising a memoir writing retreat in the Adirondacks, I had to call. The retreat took place at the Beaver Meadow Lodge in Thurman, and was hosted by Perky Granger, a well-known Adirondack writer, and led by Irene Sherlock, an experienced instructor with a keen ability to help writers' excavate what it is they are wanting to say. The retreat took place in a little log cabin on the shore of a beaver pond, looking up at the southern face of Crane Mountain. In the living room of the cabin, 10 writers sat upon cozy leather couches and chairs, drinking tea and coffee, with notebooks and laptops opened, ready to share. I find it rather nerve-wracking to share my personal writing, especially with strangers. I don't want to bore anyone, or have people judge me privately. Somehow, I'm no longer that three-year-old without inhibitions. But as I began listening to people's stories, what I realized was that no matter how beautiful or ugly or crazy or normal their story, I could relate. I felt connected to each one of them, even though I had just learned their names. And isn't that what I've always wanted? Since I was that three-year-old? To be connected? I remember one of my first columns for this paper, interviewing Sister Connie Messitt. Sister Connie referred to our individual journey through life as our own personal scripture. I always thought this was beautiful - that the most poignant wisdom can often be found just through paying attention and revisiting our own personal history. In my opinion, memoir writing is an opportunity to look at the past with a new perspective. As a writer, I have the freedom to rewrite the stories of my past to see that they are malleable. Instead of being a victim of some story that happened, or hoping someone will take my side, I have the choice to see things with new eyes and come out experiencing myself and others in a new way. By the end of the retreat, I was completely inspired. I had not only shared my stories and learned new techniques to express them more effectively, but I had made a new circle of friends. And perhaps most importantly, the experience reminded me that when I can let go of my own doubts and concerns and connect with others, life becomes a whole lot more interesting. For more information on Adirondack writing retreats, visit www.persisgranger.com. Jessica Kane is a long time resident of Brant Lake. Her column will appear regularly in the Adirondack Journal. Suggestions for this column are welcome and can be submitted at thom@denpubs.com.

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