Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Digging Up Dirt

As of today, I'm half way through an eight week memoir writing class that I'm taking at a local writer's collective. I've wanted to take a class from Molly for the past three years but it each time she announced  her upcoming courses, something would come up to prevent me from enrolling; work, finances, life, you know how it is...

I got the email announcing this fall's courses within days of getting my concussion. At that point I was still struggling to sit up without feeling like I was going to puke and I was panicking at the thought of life without roller derby, without that social circle. The timing of this email was perfect in that it reminded me that there was so much I loved to do besides derby, things that I needed my brain to be functioning for!

So I signed up and crossed my fingers that by the time the class started in late September, my brain would be recovered enough that I could participate without feeling like a zombie!

During the very first session, I felt like my sternum had cracked open and my heart was pouring out (in a good way!) Finally, a place where I belong, where my desire to tell my stories is appreciated. Each week, I sit at the long unfinished wood table with five other writers as we complete free writing exercises and share what we come up with. It's incredible how much I can produce in six short minutes, given a prompt such as "Write about something you wanted but didn't get." Our pens scritch and scratch on our notebooks as we frantically try to get out all the thoughts that come flooding in the gate that the prompt has opened.

The exercises we do in class have tapped into experiences I've had that I'd forgotten about and memories I've tucked away in places I haven't wanted to go to again. There are some things I've always wanted to write about but have been afraid to: worried about what people will think of me, worried about the people who play roles in my stories-what if so and so finds out? But I've come to realize that what my hero David Sedaris so eloquently told me this summer is true, "Ramona, you're over thinking it."

So I've gone there. I've started digging in the dirt. I'm working on a piece about experiences from my childhood. Many of you who know me well may have never even heard these stories. I don't talk about my experiences much but I've come to realize they're a huge part of who I am. The reasons I don't want kids, why I'm afraid of getting re-married, why I have very little faith in our legal system. All of these things have do with my baggage, my junk that I carry around. By writing down my stories and sharing them with others, I'm unloading a little bit of my junk and making room for more!

It's amazing to me what it feels like to revisit some of these old places inside myself. Yesterday I was writing about the death of my childhood dog and I started to cry! Sometimes I have to get up from my desk because the air around it becomes heavy and clouded with memories.

I've been told that depression comes from living in the past, while anxiety comes from living in the future. I've spent the majority of my life bouncing back and forth between the two, missing the here and now. This is something I work on with my life coach and by having a gratitude practice.

So why then do I want to go back to the past with my writing? I've been asking myself that question a lot since this class has started. I've learned that we all ask ourselves these questions as writers: Why am I telling this story? What's the point of this? Who is going to want to read this? I certainly don't know the answers. What I do know is that I feel compelled to tell my stories. If one solitary person reads a story and relates to it or laughs at it, then I've made a change in the world and I'm happy with that.

I might never be a famous writer or blogger (or I might!) but I know that by just following through and doing what I feel so inspired to do, I'm setting an example for others. If I can do it, you can do it! No matter what that "it"is!


  1. Good for you! Lots of people will want to read your stories because they'll undoubtedly touch a nerve within them. Writers give voice to the emotions that other people can't articulate, and that's one of the things you do well. Writing about the past isn't about living there; it's about being able to set it free. I can't wait to read these pieces.

  2. thunderhead? nice.
    hooray to making room for more junk!

  3. Yes, Thunderhead. Thanks for reading!

  4. I love that second to last line. I needed to hear that! Thanks for all your support in my writing efforts!