You know what?! Having a mind like a tombola (even with the door open) is sometimes a good thing – out pop thoughts, emotions and experiences that seem unconnected but when they land simultaneously, I sometimes spot the something that pulls them all together.
I already had a blog piece sketched out for this week, based around fitting changes into your life bit by bit, (‘bird by bird’ for any writers) or for everyone else – “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time” (US Army General Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. 1914–74)
However, the focus and intent I had with that piece diminished with a whole host of events including a little scare with a breast biospy. That set me running after the hare again. I wasn’t conscious of being especially worried – more, it was another reminder that time can be surprisingly foreshortened and there’s still a lot I want to achieve but I don’t get around to.
All’s ok by the way, but suddenly university prospectuses were flying through the mail as I started sorting Max’s future – cramming a few years parenting into the space of a week! (He has 4 more school years to complete before university..So, you can laugh!)
A number of different conversations over the last few weeks have also been churning through my mind. Among them, chatting to my Mum; it only hit me properly that she’d spent two years in hospital as a teenager battling tuberculosis – she was telling me tales of patients sleeping outside in the snow and I suddenly thought “There’s no record of this anywhere!”
More poignant, I’ve recently been talking to a couple of people with stage 4 cancer – both feeling an urgency to record who they are – without writing 80,000 words.
It’s something I attempted, but struggled a lot with, when I was diagnosed back in 2000 – as writing letters to a 2 year old didn’t give a flavour of me as a person – and where do you begin anyway? I’ve wondered for a while what other approaches might be better. Drawing on some of the simple approaches to coaching, I’ve had a go at generating a few questions for one person, to see if it helps elicit something personal and fun to share with her children.
But churning the tombola a further time, after I had a go at my first piece of flash fiction last week (thank you Charli Mills!), I thought it might also be creative to share some bite-sized memoir through this blog, as I am Sharing the Story.
So what is bite-size memoir?
Bite-size memoir is simply a small record of memories about yourself / friend / grandparent etc, that is deliberately restricted in length and topic, to keep it achievable in a short space of time.
Overtime I hope I can eat another elephant without much effort! I wonder if there are some of you that might find it either a useful exercise, or an opportunity to ponder on some aspects of your own life, regardless of your situation.
But what if I’m not a writer!?
I really don’t think it matters. And I think I have a ‘tool’ to help anyway:
I’ve recently been tackling one particularly difficult period in the ‘big memoir’. It was such a bad time, I cannot tell a story with it. In the end I’ve ‘borrowed’ from Joe Brainard’s Memoir: “I Remember”, which is a simple collection of ‘I remember’ statements.
There’s an amazing beauty in the simplicity of “I Remember” that doesn’t require any great skill with prose. The interest in it, is the individuality of experience in so many things we all share and recognise. Listen to him read an extract from “I Remember” to see what I mean.
So what I would love to do, is to share some bite-sized memoir with you. There’s no commitment required to do it every week. Feel free to dip in and out as the mood takes you. If you would like to join in, click on the #bitesizememoir tag near the top left of this post to see the latest prompt.
Here’s how its going to work:
THE BITE-SIZE MEMOIR CHALLENGE
- Each Friday I’ll suggest a topic by 2pm UK time (BST) via my blog and Twitter (using the hashtag #BiteSizeMemoir – You don’t need either to participate.)
2. The challenge will be to write about the topic using
10 x “I remember statements”
150 x words (prose, or poem if you want to stretch yourself)
Either will make you pick and choose your words carefully whilst keeping a tight focus for time’s sake. You might want to write more, to keep at home, but please only submit one option within the limits for sharing (i.e. 10 statements or 150 word prose/poem)
Remember a ‘flavour of who you are’ perhaps comes more from the events, emotions, relationships and actions that stand out for you rather than dates, facts and figures.
3. I will aim to compile responses and share them via another post, a week later – Friday morning, before the next challenge is issued.
4. Therefore, the Deadline for sharing your ‘Bite’ will be 2pm (BST) on the Thursday. You can share in either of two ways:
a) Post your response in the comments section of the current topic – I will find it and cut and paste to the compilation of responses. (If you are a first-time commenter on my blog, WordPress will filter you so I can check for spam and you may not see your comment appear immediately but don’t worry – I will find and share it)
b) If you have a blog you can post your response on your own blog and provide the link in the comments section of the challenge you’re responding to as well as your own post.
5. Give your response a title that includes the challenge prompt of the week – include the year you were born – I won’t enforce this but I think it provides a significant context for other readers.
A few rules:
- If you need or want to be anonymous that’s fine – When you post a comment just put ‘Anon’ or a nickname in the name field. It does ask for an email address as part of spam filtering but only I see it.
- Please keep others anonymous to protect their privacy and dignity – change names or use initials etc.
- If you’ve got an axe to grind, please do it somewhere else.
- If you stumble across this after the deadline, do feel free to contribute but you won’t be included in the compilation.
- For any bloggers, I’ll do my best to reciprocate ping backs.
Finally, I welcome feedback, particularly if anyone spots a flaw in my proposal! Otherwise please look out for the challenges which will be posted each Friday at 2pm BST