Tuesday, 31 January 2006

i have writers block

My mother called with a request the other day. My grandmother had asked her to have us all write down memories about my grandfather. Now, Grandpa's alive and well, albeit slowing down with the years. But Gram wanted stories now, so that when Grandpa dies she'll have them to hold onto.

I'm a little horrified at the idea, but I do see the appeal. I have lots of lovely memories about both my grandparents - they are some of the nicest people I will ever meet - but the problem comes when I go to write things down. My head is clouded with memories - Grandpa took me ice-fishing and after abut two hours of me deciding the place and getting ready to fish (did I mention this was a Michigan winter, and a storm had begun to blow off in the distance?) we discovered I had...lost the hook - my first poetry recital, speaking in front of about three hundred people and seeing Gram and Grandpa (who had driven from Louisville, Kentucky to Michigan that day to see me and would go back again that night) - Disneyworld, with Grandpa making faces at Mickey - my grandfather, who loves the spoken and written word, used to send me letters that were deliberately mis-spelled with instructions betting that I couldn't find all twenty mistakes - they helped me with math by teaching me 99 and other card games. So many memories!

The trouble is - when I write these down, they go flat. They don't sing, like the memories do in my head. I can't make me words resonate with the absolute love I have always felt from both my grandparents, and that makes me sad. They feel wooden, like something I'm obliged to do, like a condolence card for someone you didn't really know. Not the feeling I want to leave in my Grandmother's book of memories.

I'm not sure what to do.


julia said...

Just keep writing. Write down what you remember, no matter how flat it is, and then go back to it. Re-read it, flesh it out with remembered details. Write down any snippets of conversation you remember during each incident. Write down smells, weather, time of day, food, drinks, where you were, all that stuff. Even if it's just a word or a phrase jotted in the margin of what you've written, it will jog your memory and you'll be able to expand it from there. Eventually you will have a full, tactile memory written down.

Go pick up Annie Lamott's book Bird by Bird. It's a great little primer on writing.

Cat, Galloping said...

Don't put so much pressure on yourself. That middle paragraph there is quite lovely-- even if you can't flesh it out any further than that. Add the rest of your memories that simply. If more comes, great. If not, that will probably be enough to spark *her* memories. Also, I like the idea of writing about both of them-- I'm sure she'll enjoy hearing your memories of her as well as your grandfather-- it's just harder to ask for.

Sweet Coalminer said...

I agree with Julia - when you start writing, it's really going to bring back the details. I did something like this for my Grandma and I filled up an entire book.

Of course, I am WAY more literate than my cousins, so I knew whatever I wrote would be the best she ever got. :) Do you have someone you can feel superior to? It really helps.

I think you did a great job here, and those memories aren't flat at all.

Better Safe Than Sorry said...

i'm not a writer, but i think you just need to start. put some words on paper, jot some notes down, keep it in a journal, it will be a work in progress, something that you can spend time, going back, adding to, editing, whatever it takes, until you're happy with it, even if it takes years. good luck with your project.
just dropped in to say thanks for visiting my blog earlier

Crazy MomCat said...

I agree with Julia. Just write, freeform/stream of conscious type of writing. And, another idea is to record your voice talking about these memories. Bird by Bird is a great book, as is The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. She teaches to do morning pages, where you get up and write for so many minutes each morning about anything, to get yourself used to writing and let go of that inner critic. In my epxerience, the inner critic can really give you writer's block if you let it. Just ignore it and write, describe and give your feelings during those times. I guarantee whatever you do it will be special to your family.