More than ten years have flown by since I first set fingers to keyboard to write stories about my life. Those who follow this blog know how I started by writing about my preschool years. In the interim, in addition to a how-to-book, I’ve written more than 700 stories, personal essays, blog posts and articles, many of which are now published. I’ve always known that the time would come when I’d feel the urge to knit many of the scrapbook stories together into an integrated fabric — a Crazy Quilt of my life, so to speak. That time has come.
With The Albuquerque Years now finalized, I’m moving on to The Los Alamos Years. Writing this volume is quite different from my earlier experience. The Albuquerque Years was all freshly written. Nothing in that volume previously existed as free-standing stories. In contrast, I have already written several folders of vingette stories about my school years, and I have way more memories of that time that have yet to be written.
The Los Alamos Years is also different, because by the time I started school, I’d begun viewing my life through a lens of understanding, forming judgments and interpreting events to conform to my evolving view of life. My account of the very early years included only a couple of concluding paragraphs of retrospective interpretation, but documenting my understanding of events and my changing perspective is becoming a key element as I move forward.
To my delight, I’m finding that writing along, year-by-year, works quite well, and it’s easy to slip in an existing story where it fits. I may make minor adjustments to blend the independent story into the flow of the larger one. For example, when I pasted The Easter Bunny Discovered into my First Grade chapter, I changed it from present tense to past. It works well in present tense when it stands alone. Told in isolation, it’s a story, and stories are often more compelling when told or written in present tense. Ongoing life stories and memoirs obviously focus on the past and require the use of past tense.
You’d think that after all this practice, I’d know what I’m doing; that I could just sit down, let my fingers rip and have a completed draft in a month.
I’m as surprised as anyone to discover this is not happening. It’s easy enough to write isolated stories, but when I tie them together, other thoughts emerge. I see things in new ways. I discover relationships I was previously unaware of. I find new meanings in small things. I’m not yet at the point where I must make decisions about what to reveal and what to conceal. Those decisions will further complicate the process. Meanwhile, I’m exploring one-hundred-thirty-nine flavors of Writer’s Block and procrastination.
Please don’t let that confession alarm or deter you. Writer’s Block is another way of learning more about myself. I’m choosing to experience it as a challenge and learning opportunity, and savoring it. But I’m not letting it keep me from writing. I finish at least a paragraph every day. Otherwise, I might put this project away for five or ten years, and still be blocked when I pick it back up.
Writing about the past is a way of reliving it and healing it, and I’m reassured at the certainty that such wisdom and insight as I’ve acquired over the past fifty and some years will add value as I revisit those old scenes.
Write now: about your experience with and feelings about Writer's Block. Tell how you handle it. How have you overcome it? What is it keeping you from doing? Write it a letter and tell it off!
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal