In Natalie Goldberg’s new book Old Friend from Far Away, she gives a writing prompt – Write for ten minutes about what you don’t remember.
It’s an interesting idea – to figure out what gaps you have in your memory. When I started answering the prompt I came up with lots of weird stuff:
1. I don’t remember most of 7th and 8th grade when I went to a tiny Christian school. I don’t remember why I don’t remember, but my mom tells me I was beaten up by two girls there almost every day -so maybe that’s the problem.
2. I don’t remember my first high school football game, even though I went to many of them.
3. I don’t remember the first time I ate ice cream, or cheese, or a carrot.
4. I don’t remember my first trip to a museum or the first time I stared at a painting.
5. I don’t remember the first thing I put away in my new house.
This exercise opens me up to see where I have gaps and to wonder why I don’t remember these things. Sometimes, of course, I don’t remember because I was too young; sometimes I don’t remember because I didn’t know it was going to be important; sometimes I don’t remember because it hurts. Exploring those spaces of absences can be lovely.
Yesterday in my creative writing class, one of my students said he couldn’t remember the phone call that told him a good friend had died. That’s something to push into, to explore, to write about.
All you writers, all you bloggers, write down what you don’t remember. I’d love to see where that takes you. It’s a challenge for you.
Natalie Goldberg has been one of my favorite writers on writing. I read her book Writing Down the Bones when I first started writing, and it got me to slow down, just enough, to get some words on the page. And I find her writing ideas, coupled with those of Anne Lamott, to be the driving forces of my own writing life.
At Powell’s right now they have a beautiful video about Goldberg. In it she says, “loneliness has been sort of my black dog through all my life, and I think it’s one of the things that urged me to write because when I’m writing I feel like I’m talking to someone, that I’m communicating.” As simple as that idea is, this morning hearing that really struck me because she gives exactly the reason that I write – to find other people. Isn’t that why we blog?
Her comment makes me want to get a bouvier, one of those huge black dogs with all the fur. But I live in a townhouse and already had to send one large dog to live with my parents, so I guess the kitties and I are on our own for a while.
So I have two cats, myself, an imaginary Bouvier that is my writing, and all of you to stave off the loneliness that is this life. Thank you.
P.S. For some tips on writing, check out Seth Godin’s blog.
P.P.S. More Amazon insanity at BookNinja. By the way, if you don’t read Book Ninja, it’s worth it just for the wittiness of the commentary.