I’ve been hard at work making memories this week, and helping others make their own, or more accurately record their own. In one week, I’ve given three workshops, one on telling the story of your life at the Writers Corner, one on getting started writing at the Quakertown Library, and one on finding meaning on your memories at GreenshireArts. I’m also taking a workshop on memoir writing at West Laurel Hill Cemetery. I learn so much from workshops, whether I’m giving them or taking them. People in a room, all sharing the introspective project of writing, stirs up lessons and insights, like how passionate people are about writing, and sharing their story. I love that. At every step there is something to learn, and I keep learning more so I’ll have more to share. I’m having fun, and in my surveys, people say “Inspirational, and motivational” so my students are having fun, too.
The amazing thing about all of this is that as I teach about writing memories, and seek to find the stories in my own life, I can’t help but notice that I’m making more memories every day. Take last night for example. As many times as I speak in public, preparing for talks often makes me nervous. Sometimes I was nervous there could be a large crowd, and other times that no one would show up. I was nervous because this was my first talk at a Library, and my first talk since I published “Learn to Write your Memoir in 4 Weeks.” The library talk means that I’m going to be talking about writing to a general audience, and I know there will be a huge range of experience.
Once you get used to it, being nervous isn’t too bad. The adrenaline was actually making everything sharper. My perceptions were more acute, and my thoughts were more intense. To get through the day I worked on a series of calming strategies, such as seeing the audience as dear friends with whom I was having a chat. But my favorite strategy arises from the storytelling work I’ve been doing. I looked at the evening’s performance as a chapter in my life. Yesterday, when I woke up, I thought, “In 12 hours, I will be giving the talk. That’s a little scary. In 24 hours, I will be looking back on the evening, and it will be over.” Based on previous experiences, I expect it will have gone fairly well. Of course I didn’t know the details in advance, like how many people would show up and how the conversations would proceed. But as I was telling myself this story about past, present, and future, I was calming myself with the passage of time, and more importantly the passage of story.
It turns out that every minute is tomorrow’s memory. That might seem obvious or cosmic, but in either case it is an inescapable fact that I might as well try to take advantage of. While I’m working through the stories of my life, why not work on the story I’m living right now? I can craft my actions to lead me in the direction I want to go, to achieve the goals I want to achieve. It helps me skate on the surface of obstacles, which I know will soon be past, and it helps me retain a sense of purpose.
The first time I heard the concept of making memories was years ago, in Victoria Island in British Columbia staying at a Bed and Breakfast run by a retired couple. The sun was shining brightly through picture windows that opened down a hill towards the docked boats in the harbor. Someone at one of the tables said something about vacations making memories, and the whole idea of time popped free from its moorings and yesterday, today, and tomorrow ran together in a delicious blur. Having fun in the blur was my job that day. Teasing it apart and writing about it gives me an opportunity for pleasure for the rest of my life.