Too Silly to Write About?

Gilette Safety Razor“Is anything too insignificant or silly to write about?” asked Margaret, a frail-looking resident at a retirement community where I was presenting a program on lifestory writing.

“Any subject can be fascinating if it’s well written. Do you have a specific topic in mind?”

Margaret looked down at her lap and spoke almost in a whisper. “I was remembering the first time I shaved my legs,” she said. “My father didn’t tell me anything about how to do it.”

“Oh, that’s a wonderful story!” I replied. “I’d love to hear a story like that about one of my grandmothers!”

“I can’t hear!” “What’s did she say?” My reaction had raised everyone’s curiosity.

“Do you mind if I tell them what you said?”

She blushed and shrugged in agreement, and the large group responded like school kids. Everyone turned to a neighbor and began talking at once. “I remember the first time I shaved …” Men and women alike had shaving stories. Margaret’s shy question had touched every heart in the room, bonding them into one big memory mass. Aside from any interest for descendants, this seemingly mundane topic revived youthful memories and added extra zest to the day. Everyone had extra spring in their step when they left the room after the program ended a few minutes later.

Her core question was how she could take make such a mundane matter into something other people would be interested in. The first step is to lock in content. Looking at the woman’s brief topic statement, several story possibilities emerge. A few starter questions are:

  • How did she happen to choose that day for her first shave?
  • Had she been teased about hairy legs, felt self-conscious … ? 
  • How long did it take her to build up to this event?
  • Did she ask permission, or just do it?
  • What sort of razor did she use? Shaving soap or cream? Blade? 
  • How did she feel afterward?

Margaret’s statement raises an intriguing and uniquely personal  question: why did she mention her father as the person who had not taught her what she needed to know? Most girls would turn to their mothers with questions like this. That one phrase hints at a much larger encompassing story.

That list of questions  could be adapted for any similar personal anecdote to identify the basic story. The next step is to give your story a highly personal voice and add sparkle. This calls for adding plenty of sensory description, like the smell of shaving cream, the feel of the suds and the razor slipping across your skin or pulling against stubborn hairs. You might mention the sting of a nick or red blood flowing wetly from a gash. Details like these, along with your feelings and thoughts about the event, will set your story apart and delight your readers.

To answer Margaret’s original question, no, nothing is too silly or mundane to write about if you use your imagination and look at it from a creative new angle.

Write now: use these guidelines to write about your first shaving experience. Include lots of sensory description along with your thoughts and feelings to make a compelling story of this rite of passage.


Jerry Waxler said...

In my opinion, the very fact that it bubbled up in her mind makes it significant. When she starts writing it, she will start to see the reasons it leaped to mind. I would like to read that story.

Memory Writers Network

Sharon Lippincott said...

Jerry, I quite agree with your assessment, that the fact she thought of it makes it significant. Thanks for adding the twist that the reason for it to come to mind will come out in the writing. That's especially true for Margaret, and perhaps a bit less so for those who had the seed planted by her story. But even they will find lots of juicy connections as they write into it. Hmm. Another blog idea!

Shirley said...

Good anecdote, Sharon. I think I need to buy your book and see how you guide other people. I have an event at a retirement home coming up in June and look forward to discovering some more Margarets.

Rachel | Pen-to-Paper Journaling said...

My favourite part about facilitating workshops is the individuals and their stories. I loved reading about Margaret. I also really loved Jerry's comment!

Sharon Lippincott said...

You'll find Margaret everywhere, and retirement homes are a great place to start looking. Best wishes.