Last year, Sunday writing was based on the 52 Lists Project, a book that was a godsend of direction and inspiration in my year of daily writing. Sometimes the lists were long; sometimes short. Some were more difficult than others. They always got me thinking, and gave me something to write about. I miss the lists.
I once participated in a four-day writing workshop with author, Mary Blocksma. She started by having us divide our lives into segments that made sense to us. Early-childhood; elementary school; high school; young adult, wife and new mother; and on and on. Not too many segments…six or seven was enough. We wrote the titles of our life sections across the top of large papers with folds to divide the columns.
Then, Mary would suggest a topic…pets, for instance, and we would fill in each area of our life with what animals were in our lives at what time. Their names alone would bring up additional memories of how they came into our lives, friends and activities associated with them, and the gruesome details of their inevitable demise. Other topics were: vehicles; teachers; friends and lovers; food; entertainment. By the time we filled the sheet with notations, we had each remembered things that had not been thought about for years. Long-forgotten moments were marveled at and – later in the week – written about.
I have often pulled this exercise out to ease out details of a time or a place. Like the “lists” project, it helps to focus my attention on one thing. Either method, for me, is an aside to other writing. I love stream-of-consciousness wanderings and free-wheeling essays. When that is all I write, though, it starts to feel repetitive. The little “assignments” force me to look at things from a different angle.
This year, I presented myself with the challenge of writing three days a week, with two assignments. “Artifacts to Memories” is a memoir project based on taking common household objects and using them as the basis of my life story. “Timeout for Art” allows me a day to focus on my art, or a particular process of art-making, or to showcase the work of other artists, or – too often – to whine about not having time enough to work in the studio. Sunday was the day I allowed myself for wild, unregimented, anything-goes writing. With my usual guidelines of being kind, paying attention, and not wallowing too much in grumbling and complaints. So far, a third of the way into this year, I’ve fallen off a bit on all three.
With spring in the air, with all the promise of new beginnings, I’m making a fresh effort. In writing, as in life. So, today, on this last day of April, I am making lists. Not lists of things to write about, but of things to do, to get my life back on track. The list is not long, but it’s growing. Some things are on the list in an effort to form a new life-pattern or habit. Others reflect old efforts that have lately been neglected. Many items simply showcase a renewed commitment to things that are important to me. Writing is one of those things; time in the studio is another.
For me, the list alone is helpful. When I’m pulled in many directions, it helps to set priorities. Here’s hoping for a bright new start!