Lots of people are into writing memoir these days, are you one of them? In the early days of learning to write just about everything seems to be memoir, or thinly veiled autobiography! And of course, that’s all good and proper. When I did my first writing class years ago with Alan Hancock I believe the very first writing exercise we had was, “I remember…” As a stimulus it doesn’t get much simpler than that. Completely open-ended, that exercise threw us writing students in wildly different directions. Some of us wrote about what happened yesterday, some about distant childhood. But, if I’m remembering correctly, we all wrote about ourselves, not fiction.
This is one of the wonderful things about writing from stimuli. It forces us to sink deep into the unconscious and dig out memories, some of them things we didn’t realise we remembered. And the vast repository of images, sounds, sensations, words, weather, pets, frights, joys etc. opens up. We get temporary access to the treasure troves we’ve been stashing into since birth. And whatever you write, memoir, fiction, poetry, etc., it all has to come from the same source.
I dislike the concept of imagination. Many people have been made to think, “I have no imagination.” Like imagination is a separate part of the mind, or a talent that some have and others don’t. Imagination is simply the ability to access what we already know, what we have already experienced. And to do that, all we need is a stimulus, and a will to try it.
So if you feel you’re not creative, that you have no imagination, here is the challenge. You can create, if you really want to. Have a go, just starting with “I remember…” Jot it on a page, and continue. Write as fast as you can, with no editing, no judging, no criticising. Whatever comes to mind. No one need ever see what you wrote if you don’t want to share it. It’s just you and your memories. And the best part is, you never know what direction it will take you in, and what you might learn about yourself! As time goes on I’m becoming more and more convinced that this is what writing is all about.