My weekly memoir workshop began yesterday. Eight weeks of free writes, homework prompts, feedback, new ideas, community, camaraderie, and so much more. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks and our first class went beyond expectation.
For me this workshop is more than practice and writing. I joined this long standing group as newcomer back in 2012. I stumbled upon the notice at the library and I immediately signed up. I don’t even remember what I was doing at the library in the first place.
I had just been diagnosed with severe depression. In addition to that blindsiding me, there was anxiety creeping ever higher on the hit parade, and suicidal thoughts dominating many of my thoughts then. I needed distractions or at least motivation to continue on.
I had started attending talk therapy and went through a series of anti-depressants that took a bit to find the right combination. I lost two important supports, but found others. The only thing getting me out of bed in the morning was my newfound ritual – church, church, church, talk therapy for my depression, physical therapy for my knee, get through the weekend and start again.
This writing workshop was my lifeline.
One of the things I’ve learned in the ensuing three years is that there is no such thing as too much learning, too much information. When I talked about taking a memoir class people were surprised that I was writing my memoirs.
Of course I wasn’t. What in the world did I have to write about? I was nobody. But one of the other things I learned is that we’re all nobodies until we’re not. We all have our stories and they are each amazing in the scope of our families, of ourselves and in the overarching narrative of so many people in this country (and every other) who we pass on the street daily and read about in the history books.
The second thing I learned is that prompts are prompts. This class is focused on memoir, but memoir can be a jumping point to all other kinds of writing: fiction, history, picture books, cooking, travel, and more. And other writing topics are a springboard to all the other fields. I’ve recently taken a travel writing class that only supported the idea that all writing is related. The memoir class sparked everything and had made me a better blogger; taught me to find my focus and follow it. The travel class, as short as it was, gave me the impetus to take something on the sidelines for over five years and start it in a proper way that might be a magazine piece or a book. Either way, it will be something.
This class is still my lifeline even though my life is in a much better place than when I began. I’m thankful to say that while I’m still searching for myself, the suicidal tendencies have been tamped down. The class continues to be freeing and centering and only maintains all the ways I want to be and all the things I want to write and it lets me go anywhere. Whether a fictional ghost hunter or a memoir of my spiritual journey or a travel book of Wales, it is all there.
Our class theme this session is threads. Like the stuff theme before it, it sounds so little, so unobtrusive, but like the loose thread in a carpet that can unwind the whole thing, it can also reveal so much. From the bare floor to beneath the floor boards, children playing, dishes clattering, dogs scraping and scratching the wood. Is it a memory? Is it a fictional detective taking it all in tracking a killer, finding something else? Is it the floorboards of Thomas Jefferson’s first house?
But it’s all there for the finding, including finding yourself, a journey that never ends.