Saturday, November 12, 2011

Memoir can be difficult to share

I was relcutant to read an excerpt from my incomplete memoir at Open Mike. I was surprised by the reaction of the younger people. They were interested. I told the group of twenty-somethings that I am sometimes embarrassed to share personal details about my "nomad" dad and my childhood. They encouraged me to lay it out there. They are right.

Do not allow fear to hold you back. If you have a tale to tell, write it down. You can revise later. Sit down and free write. You may be surprised at what you find. Among all the junk in your life, you might find a nugget you can work up into a piece for publication. I did and you can too.

Traipsing Through the Decades
published in Tiny Lights, A Journal of Personal Narrative
by Linda O'Connell

Ahh, wanderlust! I inherited it from my father who had a third grade education and was functionally illiterate. He traveled wherever his wandering heart desired, and when he couldn't actually go someplace, he'd spin a yarn that kept adults and children spellbound with vivid details of people, places and things. His story telling was the catalyst for my writing.

Personal essay is my favorite writing genre. Writer's block is as painful as writer's cramp, but I have discovered that if I allow myself to travel into the past instead of plot a future story or article, I can write prolifically. Sometimes I am five years old smelling autumn leaves burning in the gutter and Grandma's homemade soup bubbling on the stove. Other times I find myself wandering into my children's childhoods. Remembering their baby days triggers a memory of nuzzling a newborn grandchild, and so it goes as I traipse through the decades.

Although I am planted in a chair in front of a computer, often I am walking across the tundra in Alaska where I left a little piece of my heart, or I am power walking on a beach listening to the ocean roar. I can almost feel the crunch of gravel underfoot as I stroll down Memory Lane with my best friend; and to feel lush grass on bare feet, all I have to do is kick off my shoes and allow my mind to wander. A short jaunt is all it takes to jog a memory. As I hop, skip and jump through the decades, I kick up dust-covered memories that result in nostalgic personal essays or blog posts. It does a writer good to take a short jaunt every now and again.


DeanO said...

the tundra of Alaska...i miss that memory myself

BB said...

Great writing. I'm working on my memoirs myself. I lived it, people like hearing about it, so why not put it to words. I'm on hold right now until my personal life gets settled but I will do this if it kills me!!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Memoir is my usual genre (as far as writing) and it's definitely my favorite when it comes to the books I read.

Donald (Graves? Murray?) said that "Writers live life twice." I guess you live it over and over again, returning to the beach, to a walk with your friend, to that lovely, carpeted and plush (you must have developed into a lush to stay there)Alaska home.

jabblog said...

A memoir is an exposure of oneself - always a potentially troubling thing for all sorts of reasons.

Kim Lehnhoff said...

Great advice to writers everywhere, Linda!

I've been the nomadic adult - and now that I've been in one spot for three years, I'm yearning for the possibilities of new places and people.

There's an allure to re-inventing myself, and what emotions are evoked when I look back at where and who I've been.

This reflection of my past selves is often the beginning of a good story or a blog post.

Southhamsdarling said...

What a lovely piece of writing, Linda. How wonderful to be able to walk through the decades like that, and then bring it to life again. Hope you're enjoying the weekend.

Susan said...

Nice, Linda. Personal essay is my favorite genre too. You ARE a prolific writer. Just look at that sidebar and all the things you've had published. GOOD FOR YOU. Keep up the good work. Susan

Debora said...

I think it's important to share our memories with the younger generation. It's a way to keep the past alive, and to give young people an anchor to their past.

Lynn said...

Great post Linda--you always say it so well, whether past or present!