The power of memory - how we cover events, or let them dance somewhere far in the background - it takes courage to bring them to the front again, center stage. Last weekend I participated in a one-day memoir writing course with Yvonne Blomer. Throughout the day, we were given prompts to reactivate our memory cells and take us into other, long forgotten places - or places and events that have always been close to the surface, still sitting on our shoulders and directing our current paths.
We were asked to write about the following, with time constraints: the story of our life, a meditation on our name, a phrase in another language, a cab ride, our hands, a fa vourite movie, a personal event linked with a world or pivotal event, a favourite book, and a childhood photograph.
We were given the opportunity to share our writings and, as with any piece of writing, a part of ourselves. There were a few passes, which is not unusual with such intimate parts of our being. When we are asked to let anything come from the recesses of the past, often everything does come - raw and uncensored. For me, it was a surreal memory from my childhood that I still can't quite sort out, from a time when everything seemed strange and confusing and I wasn't in the pilot's seat. Then there were pleasant, interesting memories that I was more willing to dissect and take another close look. Funny how we remember different events differently, and how we can take a new perspective looking back. Sometimes more compassionately of another person's perspective from the same memory.
There is often a sense that we don't quite have the right to attempt writing a memoir because we feel we need to be at the end of our life, or have led a wildly interesting life to validate writing about ourselves. Not true, as we learned in Blomer's course - we each have a valid story to tell. One woman in the course made a comment about how she prefers to take a real memory and embellish it, make it something more or something else and drift away from the truth. So, instead, she uses her memories as springboards for other creative ideas. A memoir can take so many directions, inwards and outwards, back and forth into so many new and forgotten discoveries.