Quote of the Week: “Write your story because you will someday die, and without your story on paper, most of it will be forgotten.” Dave Eggers
Writing Exercise of the Week: Write for 10 minutes about a teacher or mentor who changed your life (for better or for worse).
In 1998, my husband and I saw the Broadway musical, “Rent.” One of the songs, “Seasons of Love,” asked a simple question: How do you measure a year?
One year equals 525,600 minutes. The song—the entire production—is about making every moment count. It’s about finding a true measure for the minutes of your life.
Have you ever looked at the calendar or your watch and wonder where the time has gone? Parents look at their children and think, “How did they grow up so fast?” The memory of their child as an infant doesn’t quite reconcile with the gangly teenager heading off to college. Or maybe you came to the end of a vacation too soon—you just got there, it seems. Or maybe someone close to you passed away abruptly. “I just saw her the other day and she seemed fine … ”
Sometimes it’s the opposite. “It’s only eleven o’clock? I feel like I’ve been at work all day!”
Time may shrink or expand, but the hands on the clock move forward regardless, minute by minute.
The past decade has not only seen a boom in memoir writing, but in memoir reading. We want to know how others have chosen to navigate their life, how they overcame challenges, how they found joy, happiness, or love. We are drawn to examine ourselves and our place in the world. The events themselves are of less importance than how we responded to them. What did we learn or choose to ignore? Writing it down offers that awareness. How many of us are stuck in the past, stymied by something someone said or did, by something we said or did? Writing it down sets us free.
In writing our memoirs we bear witness to our own life, to see where our minutes have gone. It’s not about keeping a tally of right or wrong; it’s about being able to own your life and what happened. Unlike an autobiography which keeps track of the factual aspects of your life from birth until present time or death, memoirs are a snapshot—you choose what to focus and elaborate on. It’s a chance to celebrate or reflect, to entertain or educate. Polished and well-written memoirs may find their place on the bookshelves of a larger audience while others may be shared and passed down for generations to come. If you write your memoirs for no one other than yourself, you are giving yourself a great gift—one of acknowledgment, of validation, of understanding, of compassion, of forgiveness, of celebration.
Memoir writing ensures that our lives are present and accounted for. Jonathan Larson, the songwriter and playwright of “Rent,” died the day before its off Broadway premiere. His work will live on, and so will his critical question: “How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?”
What’s your answer?
Darien’s next five-week workshop, Writing Life Stories: The Art of Memoir, begins Tuesday, October 15 at 6:00 pm. Private consults available as well. Visit waimeaeducation.com for more information and to register.
Darien Gee is a national bestselling author based in Waimea. She also writes under the name Mia King. Visit her at dariengee.com and miaking.com.