- Books, Literature, and Writing
Use Past Memories As Writing Prompts
A Familiar Refrain
“I have nothing to write about. I really haven’t lived a very interesting life.”
Sound familiar? I know for a fact I have had at least ten writers say those words to me, and no matter how many times I hear it I am amazed.
Are you kidding me? You haven’t lived a very interesting life?
I find people fascinating. I love meeting new people. I love making new friends online. No matter who I meet I discover something interesting about them, so it blows my mind that there are people who think they aren’t interesting.
Let me tell you a secret that just might put to rest the nonsense that you are not interesting. Are you ready? Here it is so pay attention…..we all share similarities. We are all so much more alike than we are different. People want to know that they are understood, that there are others who have shared their experiences and know what it is like to be them. For a writer, that fact is a gold mine. There are millions of readers out there who will be interested in your story if you can just get past the belief that you think you have led a dull life.
So we are going to do an exercise or two to shake you free of this crippling belief. Are you game? Then let us begin.
Write down five life-changing events that have happened in your life. Please don’t tell me you haven’t had any because we all have. Every day, every week, every month we do something that will have an effect on our lives down the road; once we get older we can spot those special moments quite easily.
The time you turned down a date with the big stud athlete and instead went to the movies with the shy bookworm, who ended up being your husband for twenty years. The time you changed majors in college and met your best friend while doing volunteer work at the mission. How about the time you got pregnant during a wild weekend at the beach and gave birth nine months later to a beautiful child who is your pride and joy today?
I literally have had mothers tell me they haven’t done anything interesting. HELLO???? You gave birth. That is not only interesting but also the supreme act of love. Write about it! I have had blue collar workers who support their families tell me they don’t do anything interesting. HELLO???? You are a part of the working force that holds this nation together. Write about it!
- Writing Exercises to Help With Writer's Block
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Now jot down the five happiest moments in your lifetime. What will it be? In all fairness I should share mine with you so you can get a feel for this exercise, so here goes.
- Holding my son for the first time; is there anything cooler than that?
- Having Bev tell me that she loved me; I repeat, is there anything cooler than that?
- Publishing my first novel; goodness gracious, what a cool moment when I held my book in my hands…..my book…the culmination of two years….very cool!
- My eighteen years of teaching all rolled up into one fantastic experience. Getting to know hundreds of children and helping them prepare for their futures.
- Being told by my best friend, who is dying from Alzheimer’s Disease, that he couldn’t hope for a better friend than me.
Life is filled with special moments. I know, I know, some of you had horrible childhoods, or maybe you had wonderful childhoods but horrible adulthoods; but still, there were moments along your timeline that are worth writing about.
This is not a pleasant topic but it is one filled with emotion and it is a topic that readers will instantly relate to. Think back to those sad moments that helped shape your life. The day your childhood dog died; the day your high school sweetheart and the father of your children had an affair and broke your heart; for me, holding my father as he died of a heart attack; is there a person out there who does not understand that kind of pain?
If you are a person of compassion and empathy then this topic will be easy for you. I am sad when a little child cries. Anybody else feel that way? I am sad when I see the faces of the homeless. Anyone else?
Sad moments helped to shape our lives. There can be no denying that fact. No, it may not be pleasant revisiting some of those moments, but writing is not always a pleasant gig. Dig deep and find the emotions associated with a particular event in your life. Write down what those emotions feel like, and then sit back and marvel at how others totally understand what you are feeling.
The Lists Are Easy to Compile
How about five ex-boyfriends and how those boyfriends affected your life? Or how about five childhood friends and what impact they had on your childhood? I’m just warming up so stay with me. List the five best jobs you have had and why they are considered the five best. Now list the five worst jobs you have had and why you consider them so horrible.
Here’s one most can relate to: list five things you don’t like about yourself and why. Now list five things you love about yourself and why.
Are you starting to get the hang of it now?
A ten year old has lived enough of a life to find something interesting to write about. In fact, I would venture to guess they have a great deal to write about because they are still young enough to marvel at the very essence of life, whereas adults tend to miss the magic in everyday life as they get older.
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Are you willing to try some of these exercises?
How Can You Use This Information?
Really? You even have to ask this question?
Write a human interest piece about growing up, or handling loss, or the joy of a memorable Christmas.
“But I’m not a human interest sort of writer!”
Oh for the love of God, so what? Writers improve as writers by writing. Who cares if you are comfortable doing this exercise? I’m not here to make you comfortable; I’m here to kick you in the behind and make you wish you had never said you had nothing interesting to write about. LOL
Even if you never use these lists in an article or book, they will help you to improve your craft, and down the road they will give your writing more depth. I am right about this so please don’t argue with me. Just do the exercises and you can thank me later.
The bottom line is this: writers who are serious about writing want to improve. Writers want to plumb the depths of their talent and lay it all on the line. These exercises will help you to become the writer you were born to be. There is so much more in you that has not surfaced yet. Don’t allow it to hibernate one moment longer. Dredge up those memories and let them light the way as you continue on the path of a writer.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”