Enter: Old Friend from Far Away Natalie Goldberg's guide to writing memoir. I had been using this book as a coaster and subsequent pillow since I bought it back in May. I had turned down the corners of a few pages, but I always had found it less than inspiring. Mostly because I wasn't keen on Goldberg's initial attempts to get one writing. "Tell me a memory you have of water: write for 10 minutes.", "Write about the first time you ate a peach: write for 10 minutes", "Tell me about a time you washed dishes: write for 10 minutes" Even the most "exhilarating" of subject matter at times left me cold: "What's been on your mind, write for 10 minutes.
This didn't quite work for me, as I am the type of person who refuses to buy into simple ploys to just get my pencil moving, words flowing, and my fingers smoking. But I can't determine whether it was at a time when I felt inspired by the world as an entity and I picked up the book to give it another go that I read the words: "What ghosts haunt you, write for 10 minutes." Actually I read those words about a week after I wrestled with a few. Immediately after this serendipitous moment, I began to see the passages in a whole new light: hers and my own.
I was no longer haunted as the dead arose. I would finally write on a particular memory, one I had replayed again and again, and three that I had forgotten would suddenly appear. Ghosts, Sickness, Apples, Driving, Windows, Potatoes, Chins, Sitting; It finally all meant something. It all fit into the greater whole.
I will leave those of you who want a glimpse into the book with a list of Goldberg's guidelines for writing memoir. This is only a very tasty hint of the book itself but I find myself going over it like a checklist, so I can remember all of the most important parts.