Debbie LaChusa

Life through a writer’s eyes

Studying memoir writing changes the way you view life.

There’s a small black spiral bound notebook on my desk. The cover is turned back exposing a blank page, the previous pages already filled with ideas and lists. Ever since enrolling in a memoir writing course, the notebook has become a repository for story ideas that arise as I go about daily life. What would have previously been ordinary occurrences are now potential essay content, or a thread of an idea for a book.

The name of a fragrance prompts a retrospective look at mom’s life. A metal butterfly hanging on my bedroom wall, purchased in a vintage shop in Boonville, Missouri—dad’s hometown—inspires questions about dad’s childhood growing up without a father. A conversation with my brother reveals pain and hurt I didn’t even realize was there. A photograph of my grandson reminds me of all I have to be grateful for amidst a year of challenges and loss. A birthday evokes melancholy instead of joy because of who is no longer here to help celebrate. It almost feels as if I’m witnessing my own life instead of living it. Each event plants a seed for a story, stories I know I must write to see where they lead.

The need to capture these thoughts before they disappear feels urgent. The list in the notebook grows, as does the note I keep on my phone, a reliable stand-in when I’m away from my desk.

I find myself experiencing life differently since I began studying memoir writing.

Daily events are now viewed as stories. Characters emerge. Setting details are logged. Dialogue is remembered, or reimagined. Each time begging the question: What is this really about? Beyond what happened, what is the event trying to teach me, teach others?

My intention is to write every day. Yes. Every. Single. Day. After having not written regularly for several years, this is a challenge, but a welcome one. I am committed to writing, even if I write badly, something I’ve never allowed myself to do, but that my instructor insists upon. She calls this writing vomit drafts. It’s freeing and often enlightening.

I’m realizing I’ve always processed life through writing.

Most often writing in my private journals, but also on blogs, in books and even online courses. Memoir writing is taking it to a whole new level, and some of the early revelations have been profound.

The work of memoir is more than just a literary journey.

Alison Wearing
So I write even when the words aren’t flowing.

I write without self-editing or judgment. I plant the story seed, water it with whatever words flow out the ends of my fingertips, and see what sprouts. And even if the story never grows into anything, the effort fulfills my intention to create a writing habit and practice the skills I’m learning.

And even at this early stage, I’m intrigued by what has already emerged. So I write, inspired and motivated by what might show up next.

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