Tag Archives: reading

Write for Your Life – part 3: The Big Picture

This blog will be continuing the life writing theme with the element of The Big Picture up for discussion.

Have you been writing? You hesitated. It’s interesting that vacuuming the house or doing the dishes becomes appealing when you should be writing. Procrastination is your enemy, so be mindful of this. Make your writing project part of your daily routine, it’s the only way to get it done. At least five days per week should have some time allotted to the task and before you realize it, you will have written a first draft.

After my last blog, you should have been able to map out a rough outline of your story. Don’t spend too much time on this because you need to get to work to flesh out the details by filling in the spaces between events. Eventually you will have a draft that you can step back from and assess. It will be far from perfect. Keep this in mind while you assess, otherwise you will be inclined to give up. No first draft is perfect. In fact it may be really dreadful but it’s something you can work with.

In your assessment of the first draft, you need to look at the big picture. As you read through it, make notes about what does and doesn’t work. Are there parts that need more detail? Have you waffled in another? Have you glossed over details because they are too painful, seem boring or you were lazy when you wrote them? I talked to someone in a workshop who was writing a memoir and failed to mention that he was married for several years because he didn’t think it was interesting. Most people would think that this was a significant event in a life. It also changes the reader’s perception of the story because he/she will imagine that a person was on their own when in fact they weren’t. It’s actually a false portrait of your life. If the marriage was not fantastic, that’s fine, don’t go into a lot of detail but you can’t completely omit it.

Blaise as a little girl. We don’t get the big picture.

There are many significant people that come and go from our lives. Our interaction with them affects the trajectory of our path in life. If you look at the image here of me, there is someone else in the picture. Aren’t you curious about who it is? You will start filling in my story from your own imagination. It’s my big sister and of course she is a significant person in my life, so she needs to feature in my life story. This might seem obvious to you but you’d be surprised how often writers don’t consider this.

In your reading of the first draft, you might have some aha moments about aspects of your story. Patterns may emerge or you might remember other details that have been long forgotten. This happens all the time and makes it hard to know when to stop writing because memories will keep appearing when triggered by another. That’s why it’s important to write several drafts in order to really excavate all those details.

If you visualize an archeologist uncovering the remains of a dinosaur, there will be painstaking work to uncover the bones. Bit by bit, the story of the bones is revealed. This is how your own story will evolve. Despite it being your own story, so much of it will be buried in your subconscious and will need to be ‘excavated’. Some of these memories may not be pleasant, so they may need more work to reveal than others.

Once you have gone over and assessed your first draft, start rewriting it with emphasis on parts that you think better demonstrates that ‘big picture’.

Blaise the book chick

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Write for Your Life Part 1: Tap into Your Emotions

Rusty old tap, photo by Blaise van Hecke

There are many reasons why you might write about your life. You may have had an adventurous journey that people will be interested in reading about, or you have overcome trauma and come out of it stronger and happier than ever with a lot of great experience to pass on to someone else? It might just be a bucket list item or you want to leave a legacy for your children. Whatever the reason, you’ll find this expedition rewarding in so many ways.

The most common hurdles that I come across when working with people writing their story are not knowing where to start and thinking they don’t know how to write. Like anything, when you break it down it becomes less of a daunting task. These are some of the major aspects to  writing your story that will help you put it together:

  1. Emotions
  2. Turning Points
  3. The Big Picture
  4. Themes
  5. Storytelling
  6. The Senses

Over the next six blogs, I’ll be exploring these aspects of writing your story.

How do you overcome self-doubt and write something that is compelling? If you present a story that is a long list of events and dates it can be boring to read. So what does emotion have to do with it?

By tapping into your emotions, you will draw deeper into your story. I call this writing from the heart. This takes courage. For some writers, they are not ready to ‘go there’ yet. The event they’re writing about may be too recent and will present them with too-raw emotions. Even events from far back in your past can bring up emotions that you haven’t dealt with properly or you may not realise there are emotions attached to them.

How do you tap into these emotions? Write it out!

There are a number of writing exercises that you can try but one that I use often with workshop participants is this: Write a letter of gratitude.

Pick someone from your life (past, present, dead or alive) who has had an impact in your life. This influence can be positive or negative. This is one of those exercises that can go anywhere depending on the choice you make. The idea is to thank this person for what they brought to your life. How hard are you going to open that tap? The more water you let out, the more emotions will flow. If emotions don’t come, think about what you’re writing about or the person you’ve chosen. Are you playing it safe?

Once you’ve made your choice, sit with it for a minute or so and think about this person from all angles. Write a few specific words. How does this person make you feel? Angry, sad, nostalgic, frustrated, happy? Don’t over think this because it should be as free flowing as possible. Remember the tap, the free-flowing water. Writing will be like this if you don’t overthink it.

Now set your watch to ten minutes and write your letter.

When the timer goes off you may still have more to write. That’s okay. This is an exercise to get you going. You may or may not use this in your story but with practice, you will learn how to turn on the water bravely. It takes courage to open yourself fully and write authentically. You need to do this if you want to connect with your reader. Don’t be an old, rusty tap.

Try this exercise a few times, thanking a different person. Why not write one to yourself?

If you’d like to attend one of my Life Writing workshops, follow this link.

Blaise the book chick

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