Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for I Remember . . .

I've been working on my family history for about thirty-five years. In the process I never forgot that I also wanted to be a writer. The two merged as I started doing research for authors and then my own historical writing.

Along the way I fell in love with journaling and stream-of-consciousness writing. Sometimes I write about personal stuff. Sometimes it becomes a story or poem. Whatever evolves there is nothing like putting pen to paper (in my case a fountain pen is a little bit of heaven). Maybe one day I'll get all my fountain pens together and take a picture. hmm

One of the first books on writing and the one I always go back to is Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. Each page has a little story about writing with no plan and a prompt to get you writing from all different places and times. It's hard to explain if you don't do it.

One of her prompts is:

Begin with "I remember." Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that. Just keep going. Don't be concerned if the memory happened five seconds ago or five years ago. Everything that isn't this moment is a memory coming alive again as you write. If you get stuck, just repeat the phrase "I remember" again and keep going.

As you write like this, memories you didn't even realize you had, come bubbling to the surface. One memory leads to another, and another, and another.

A few years later Natalie came out with another great book on writing: Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. Natalie's writing has a way of putting you in another zone. It reaches beyond the surface and helps you get to the meat and bones of your self.

I was lucky enough to hear Natalie speak a year or so ago. She was amazing. Yes, meeting a long-admired author is a little like that rock star excitement.

Family history is learning about your ancestors and their lives. It is also learning how those lives affected you. Your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all helped you become You. Leaving memoirs for your descendants and others is an important part of passing all of that on.

Natalie Goldberg and I after she signed her latest book,
The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language.

Find a pen and paper and get started. I remember . . .