The Tao of Memoir Writing: Part 3


This is the third in a series of six posts by Matilda Butler.

Today in the Tao of Memoir Writing, I’m reflecting on the telling of our life journey. Consider this:

The journey begins at the gate or the journey begins in the middle of the garden.

Wherever we are appears to be the center. And wherever we go, there we are.

Let me ask an important question for memoir writers. Where will we begin our stories? There is no single answer, no right answer.

Perhaps we should start where we are–wherever our thoughts are focused now. The structure will grow from that. “A tree broader than a woman can embrace is born of a tiny shoot.”

THE TAO OF MEMOIR WRITING TIP: If you are just getting started on your memoir, the most important thing to do is to just begin. As your ideas and words begin to flow, there will be plenty of time to consider the structure of your memoir. If you are bogged down, don’t worry about a cohesive flow. Pick up your writing at another point in the story. Later you can organize the material.

Many years ago, so long ago that I was using a Smith Corona Coronet Super 12 electric typewriter, I developed a three step trick for getting my writing started:

(1) Insert a blank piece of white paper into the platen and roll it until about an inch is visible;

(2) Type the word “The”;

(3) Cross out the word with a series of xxxs.

Voila! I didn’t have to worry that the first word or first sentence was perfect, engrossing, or even vaguely interesting. The blank page wasn’t blank. I was already launched.

That old trick seems silly today, but it conveys a message. You can start any place. You cannot imagine where the memoir writing journey will take you. You simply need to get started on the adventure.

Remember: Wherever you are in the process of memoir writing is the center of your thought. Wherever you go, you will find yourself.

by Matilda Butler

4 responses to “The Tao of Memoir Writing: Part 3

  1. I don’t think that’s silly at all! Still brilliant. It cracks open that blank sheet/screen of paper fear.

    On Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 5:01 AM, Telling HerStories: The Broad View wrote:

    > Matilda Butler posted: “This is the third in a series of six posts by > Matilda Butler. Today in the Tao of Memoir Writing, I’m reflecting on the > telling of our life journey. Consider this: The journey begins at the gate > or the journey begins in the middle of the garden. ” >

  2. I love the idea that where I am–wherever that is–is the beginning. Prompts the question: where do I go from here? Thank you, Matilda!
    –Susan Wittig Albert

  3. Janet: Thanks for your comment. You are a talented and creative artist of pictures and words. It is lovely to connect through Story Circle Network.

  4. Susan: This idea first came to me when I was interviewing women for the collective memoir Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Stories. A number of the women, in looking back on their lives, realized that a move to a new location, a new job, or even a new husband didn’t change them. Wherever they went, there they were. Eventually, they realized the change had to come from inside rather than outside.

    I especially like your addition of “Where do I go from here?” An important question we all need to both ponder and take action on.

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