Yesterday I ran a workshop at the Corrigin Creative Arts Centre, with the focus being on writing from life experience. It was a smallish group – five participants (plus myself of course) which made for a special day, with lots of sharing of participants’ writing endeavours and their life experiences.
As well as me doing lots of talking about myself and the writing life, I lead the ladies through various writing exercises aimed at getting them writing and also tapping in to memories which could be developed into stories or used in various forms of autobiography. Perhaps the most successful exercises were two quite simple ones.
Firstly, as a free writing exercise, I had them write the words I remember and then simply write for about ten minutes. Most thought back to childhood times, but others had specific adult memories come to the fore. I did this exercise myself and found out that a memory I thought I had was quite different than what I actually remembered. I have often talked about how exciting it was for me to catch a school bus to kindy when I was little. When I wrote about this memory I realised that I had no memory of actually being on that bus – only the excitement of knowing I was going to catch it, and a memory of waiting for it to come. It was interesting for me to make this realisation.
The other exercise we did was simply writing a list of things which were important at different times in each person’s life. I asked them to write down such things as a special toy from childhood, five books they’d read, a birthday present they’d received, a gift they’d given and so on. Many people were surprised at the things they remembered, or at things they had trouble remembering.
I don’t tend to write a lot of autobiographical pieces, but having guided others through this workshop, I realised that I have plenty of material there to tap into either for such stories or for fictional stories. Of course, I already use life experience in my fiction, but exercises which unlock these experiences will be a really useful writing starter for me in future.
Rather than asking yourself ‘what have I done that’s worth writing about’ how about simply writing and seeing what comes out? Use a list, or a photo, or a possession as a trigger, if needed. So, why are you still reading? Go and write something! I’m going to.