I hear it often. Wanting to write your own memoir, or life story, but not sure where to start. Here's a tip. Instead of staring at the blank page, wondering where to start, and feeling overwhelmed, why not start writing a personal profile -- an overview of your story in 1000 to 3000 words. And if you can't write it yourself, get someone to write it, or help you write the piece. It's amazing what emerges -- a spark, ideas, a theme, a voice, structure, or even style or tone. I've been collaborating with a couple of business women lately, and it's worked for both of them, even though the story each of them wants to tell is about much more than their respective businesses. Happy writing. Michele Text and image copyright Michele Gierck www.michelegierck.com.au
Personal writing is rarely just about the end product. It's a process. And that process can be a real gift, requiring deep thought and reflection. Yes, it often comes with challenges and surprises, but it's a bit like going fishing. You never know what you're going to find. (Or what finds you!) Even the difficult parts of life, when written about, take on different hues, and allow you to look from a different perspective. My two memoirs have been about powerful personal experiences: one in a war zone, the other accompanying my mother with dementia. I might have thought I was writing about human rights, or breaking down barriers about dementia. But looking back, I realise I was just trying to make sense of it all -- of the madness of life. That's why I encourage people who are thinking about writing -- perhaps daring themselves to give it a go -- to dive in. It's not so much the end product as the process of writing that's the real gift. Over the years I've been contacted by quite a few people wanting to write part of their own story, but wondering where to start. Here's my suggested strategy -- three questions to ask yourself.
- If you were to choose six parts of your life to write about (they could be events, experiences, life stages, transitions, or times when you learnt something significant) what would they be?
- Why do you now feel the urge to write? Is it because you promised yourself you would before your turned, 30, 50 or 75? Perhaps you want to hand stories down to family members. Or to reflect on your journey so far? Is it to tell the story of others through your own eyes? Or to let your creative self flourish and see what emerges?
- Who would you like the audience for your writing to be? Are you writing for anyone in particular? Or just for yourself? Would you like your prose or poetry to be published?
Dear Friends, Readers, Community, Here's a quote for the day that someone I've never met was kind enough to send me. Necessity is the mother of invention. In these challenging times get creative! Creativity and curiosity are great gifts to have, especially now. They help us stay upbeat. Friends have been sending me links to useful online sites. No point keeping them to myself, so here they are. For some relaxing yoga -- as good for the mind as the body -- check out this online session. If you're up for a free short course, you might like to have a look at the broad selection on offer at Future Learn, from screen writing to health and history. Feel free to contact me via the contact page on my website if you have ideas or comments. Photo and text copyright Michele Gierck
There's nothing like pottering in the garden, losing yourself in spring blooms, to get creative ideas. The garden is my writer's retreat. I'm most appreciative of this space as I edge closer to finishing the writing of my next book. Image and writing © Michele Gierck
We all have our stories. But so often our stories are not heard. And if not written down, at least in Western culture, they are often forgotten. I was reminded of this during an early morning visit to the local pool. (I've been swimming at the same pool for nine years.) Today, instead of laps I was walking up and down in the aqua play area, and so was a retired fellow called Joe. We always say hello to each other, but this morning, since we were walking at the same pace, we started chatting. And before I knew it, I was listening to an amazing story. In ten minutes I learnt that Joe was from Italy and had migrated to Australia as a 24 or 25 year old. Married to a woman from his own village, and determined to support his family and have a life, once in Australia, Joe worked in the textile industry -- 7 days a week! And he worked hard. Truth be known, Joe had always worked hard. His parents died when he was seven years old, and his 16-year-old sister -- who had one leg amputated -- had brought up Joe and his younger brother. By nine years of age, Joe was accustomed to walking 35 kilometres to the nearest town to sell goods, and then 35 kilometres back home. All in the one day! And I can just imagine the condition of his shoes. By nine years of age, Joe had become the man of the house. Now a grandfather, when I suggested that Joe write his story, so his kids and grandkids could understand the sheer guts and determination that is part of their family roots, and their DNA, he confided that he'd learnt to read, but not to write. And that got me thinking. (I can't help it. I am a memoir writer, having written two of my own memoirs, and quite a number for other people. I'm always thinking about life stories.) What would be the best way for someone who is not able to write in their second language to record their story? It's an important question because Joe is one of the many many people whose story is so worthy of being on the public record -- not just for the public, but for his own family, and for generations to come. Image and text © Michele Gierck
This is such a stunning book: so insightful about the meaning and purpose of our lives, so beautifully written, and incredibly honest. Basically it's bloody fabulous (as we would say in Australian parlance). And so sad when the 37-year-old author, a neurosurgeon and scientist, dies. It's an absolute must-read, especially for anyone facing their own mortality, (that's all of us isn't it?) and for those who surround and love them. An inspiring story that will live on long after the last page is read. Long live the memory of Paul Kalanithi. Que Viva! After my latest book, Fraying: Mum, memory loss, the medical maze and me, was published, I was often asked to speak about end of life. Fraying was written from the perspective of a daughter, with no medical qualifications; a daughter struggling with the medical maze and the decisions to be made. When Breath Becomes Air is from a medical professional's perspective, one who becomes the patient. The questions Paul and his wife, Lucy Kalanithi, must face, and dare to ask, are confronting. But they are also, in essence, questions about what it means to be human, and at what point living becomes too much of a burden. This book is a precious gift to readers. Michele's website: www.michelegierck.com.au
It's great getting reader responses to Fraying. So many people whose parents have had dementia have written to me, and I find their stories so moving. Here's a few lines received this week. 'I purchased a copy of Fraying and I simply couldn't put it down. It was like I was reading my own life experiences with my mother... Thank you so much for writing this story for me too. It will remain a most treasured book on my bookshelf and shared with others.' All I can say is thank you, thank you to readers. The more we share our stories, the richer the community. Stories, after all, are our treasures. Michele Gierck Author/Freelance Writer/Speaker
So you want to write your story. Wondering where to begin? Here’s three questions to get you going. Take time to consider them. 1) If you were to choose six parts of your life to write about -- they could be events, experiences, life stages, transitions or times when you've learnt something significant – what would those six things be? 2) Why do you now feel the urge to write? Is it because you promised yourself you would before you turned 30,50,60 or 75? Is it because you want to hand stories down to family members? Or to reflect on your journey so far? Is it to tell the story of others through your eyes? Or perhaps just to let your creative self flourish, and see what emerges? 3) Who would you like the audience for your writing to be? Are you writing it for anyone in particular? Or just for yourself? Would you like it published? Once you’ve answered the questions, write down the six things you want to write about. And then write about them! It's okay if you only write a paragraph on each. Or you could write pages and pages. Then, once you've got that writing done, take a good look at it. Then put it down, leave it for a bit. And look again. What are the threads that are common to each of the six pieces? What might hold them together? What would you like to replace or add? This might give you an idea of what you really want to write. And at least it's given you a starting point. The rest of your writing could easily develop from this. Rather than pressuring yourself to write a book, you might consider writing an overview piece that links the pieces you’ve written. Or perhaps you'd prefer to write on one of the pieces that just seems to grab you. You never quite know what’s going to happen once you start on your own personal writing adventure… So, be brave, be creative, and allow the story to emerge. Go for it! Michele ps for all those who say they can't write, then speak it, record it, and get hold of some apps or technology that types it up for you! (See, there's no excuse not to write.) * Text and Image copyright Michele Gierck Michele Gierck is author of 700 Days in El Salvador, Fraying: Mum, memory loss, the medical maze and me, and co-author of Peter Kennedy: the man who threatened Rome. Michele's website: www.michelegierck.com.au Michele is a member of The Australian Society of Authors. Michele will be on tour in the USA and Canada in June and July 2016
How fab, having Alzheimer's Australia VIC endorse my latest book, Fraying: Mum, memory loss, the medical maze and me, as a good read. Underneath this endorsement Carers Victoria commented: 'It is great. We are looking at having Michele speak with carers during National Carers Week in October. Very insightful and honest.' As the author, I am delighted by this positive response. (And all the likes.) Great to see that news about the book is spreading. Refer Facebook page: Alzheimer's Australia VIC, 25 June, 2015
How good it is to find your special spot. A place to relax, to calm, to be. A place to listen, to be drawn into the moment. (No phones, ipads or laptops here!) There's been quite a bit of media and a number of talks given since the release of my latest book, Fraying: Mum, memory loss, the medical maze and me, in March. Now, it's time to get back to basics, create a calm space ... and write. Yes, all the talks and interviews are enjoyable, but at heart the joy of writing is one that for me cannot be quelled. If I don't write, I feel a part of myself is missing. For those interested, I will be back speaking again in September, during Dementia Awareness Month. More details soon.