Not having electricity for a few days is an interesting experience for a writer. I have a laptop with a battery, so obviously I can still write...until the battery goes dead anyway. (I DID have a place to go plug it in to recharge) My problem was that a lot of the articles I was working on at the time were dependent on the Internet for research. So what's a writer to do?
And honestly, it was difficult to concentrate. When you're figuring out what is cookable on the wood stove, it's hard to concentrate on work, for me anyway.
Well, luckily I was reading "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. In the book, Lamott talks about purposing yourself to write just 300 words. She encourages readers to start with their childhood, a time when memories are vivid. So I did that. What fun! Really. It was fun to just write what I wanted. First I tried to think of what my very first memory was but that was kind of impossible. So I started with kindergarten and wrote about my strongest impressions. Later I wrote about first grade and then second. I didn't include every single thing I remembered about it, just the memories that jumped to the front.
Lamott has a purpose in having readers do this exercise. There are memories that you have that you don't even know are there until you write them. You may use one of them in the novel you're writing, or it may trigger another memory that can be used. But I can think of another use.
As you know, a few years ago, my father gave me more than 400 letters he'd written during WWII. That single act changed my life. It changed how I see history. Now imagine your great-grandmother stepping back through time and handing you something she'd written; letters, a diary, a journal. What a treasure that would be. In writing our family history, we must remember to include ourselves. All of these memories that we're trying to drag out of our parents and grandparents, we have too. And believe me, someday, one of your relatives will be thrilled to read about your life.
I'm up to the 7th grade now and plan to keep going, 300 words at a time. What's your earliest memory? Have you written it down? ~Karen