Wednesday, October 31, 2012

750 Words: Week 2

It may have been the emotion in that room or the fact that it was so hot that I couldn't easily breathe, but I remember feeling absolutely connected. We all sat around a room in the University Commons area with plastic chairs. There was a refreshments table and a dusty piano in the corner, and various people sitting unsettled up front in a row of chairs. An old man with white hair and a thick mustache introduced each person before they spoke to read their poems, short stories, and selections from their novels. An older, heavy set woman stood up, walking to the podium.

"A memoir is a mixture of the heart," she said. "It is very much like praying. I will share with you some of my prayers, some of my longings. I will show you secrets behind closed doors and better sides of me, and I will show you what hurts."

I don't remember her prayers - the pieces of her memoir that she read out loud to us. But in the moment that she showed us her honest heart, I was undone. I felt the power of her words flood over me, and I knew it was what we all should do - share our prayers, joy, pain, stories. I thought, I have to write memoir moments somehow, because this has changed me. 


Coffee talks. It talks of old spiral notebooks passed between friends, games of scrabble and games of eavesdropping (only for the strange ones). For the writer, coffee seems to be included in the life package. Rings of coffee are married to paper and napkin-poems. It is what we drink to gain inspiration, because coffee holds worlds in itself. It is a world for the lost, the traveler brought in by the rains, the old man reading to his wife, the boy and the girl blushing at hands that touch... coffee - with metal, clinking spoons, and packets of sugar, with frothy milk and the sound of pen on paper to perhaps remind us how they go together - and the writer, drinking coffee to remember the girl who broke up with the boy two tables over and the man in the business suit who passes out roses to women sitting alone. Coffee stirs the familiar, it makes music sound better, it makes our teeth yellow and our eyes older. 'Drinking a cup of coffee' will be how I start all those stories with my grand-kids  it will be the brewing sound in the middle of the night when we gather around a table after someone close has died, it is what I dream about and the aroma I wake to, it is the taste and smell that tells us that life is being lived here.

"Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground -- you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move." -- Anne Lamott

As writers, we have to push past the fear of perfectionism and just write. If we want to become better writers, we must practice writing the kind of fiction or nonfiction we want to write. The idea behind 750 words comes from a book called The Artist's Way and the use of morning pages. Morning pages are stream of consciousness writing to exercise creativity and teach you to get in the habit of writing at least three pages a day.The idea is to clear your mind, allowing for a free flow of ideas for the rest of the day and to free yourself from getting stuck on editing or anything else that may stifle creativity.This writing is a great tool against writer's block, but I struggle with writing a quick draft and clicking publish. That's why every Wednesday, I post at least one (part or whole) of my 750 word writing exercises from my week. I am currently using writing prompts from Natalie Goldberg's book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. I would love for you to join me! Feel free to grab the image below and post a link of your own 750 word exercise posts in the comments. Click here to see all 750 word posts.

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"Pleasant words are [like] honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24