By definition

A section in the memoir writing course discusses structure; more specifically, whether or not adhering to a predetermined one assists or inhibits creativity and achieving the goals. Sticking to a plan can be beneficial for some while restrictive and static to others. At the same time abiding by a particular practice, like the writing of letters or the creation of lists, can organically develop into a fulsome story. One chapter exercise was to generate a list and elaborate on the items, perhaps following the letters of the alphabet as a prompt. Nothing immediately popped into my imagination so I decided on another route: I would employ the word of a day, in order, from the first of the month to today (the 24th). What follows is that exercise utilizing the Merriam-Webster word of the day for October (https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/mirage-2021-10-24). I hope it doesn’t sound inauthentic or forced.

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I created my blog as a vehicle to reach a larger audience for my daily writing about a three week trip to India. The subject matter expanded when I began to digitize my deceased parents’ photograph collection, the last vestiges of their life. They became the prompts for a post, generally centered around a theme or a memory sparked by the images. The nostalgia of the early writing might be mistaken as an attempt to cozen readers into believing life was a rose garden. Rather, it reflects my own need for development, as I am not particularly adroit at conveying the difficult times and have lacked the mettle to persist, to work through a seemingly intransigent approach to discussing family matters. I don’t believe the avoidance to be lolling or to reflect a cavalier attitude about their realities.

Part of the hesitancy may be an unconscious minimization of my work and a disbelief in anyone’s interest to read the material. After all, who am I? Certainly not some scion of a famous family whose members would fret about any revelations. Instead my father is remembered as an amicable working man, the salt of the earth who could strike up a conversation with everyone: the staff in the front office, the president of 3M at the annual picnic, or the restauranteur of his favourite dining establishment.

My father was a machinist. This picture was taken at Kelco, a small shop in London, circa mid 1960’s.

Dad was not one to face difficulties directly; he would rather extricate himself from the situation or leave it to my mother to handle. Despite his fervent vocal support for unions and the causes they represent, my father avoided the odious strike at his place of work, the first in the plant’s history. He rationalized that the local leadership reflected a mini cabal which made the decision to walk out, without due regard for the membership. The leadership’s call to action was precipitated by angry words embellishing the divide with management, solidifying the previous gossamer support among the rank and file. Dad could not abide the rancor and vitriol, so chose instead to find other temporary employment until it ended. The income was needed, and picket line duty was avoided.

But I digress.

The discipline of writing, to place my bum in a seat every day putting pen to paper, purported to be the secret to success, hopefully means my inhibitions will not continue in perpetuity (with the added risk of my body devolving into a zaftig figure). I hope persistence, practice, and vulnerability will support my ambitions to be a writer, to be deserving of that nomenclature. My enrolling in the memoir writing course was intended to provide ongoing access to the tools necessary to batten my resolve, to tackle the realities of our lives, the beauty and the untoward.

I believe an integral element of this goal is my devotion to documenting the unrecorded and the unspoken, the myths and the truths; to discern between the actual and the bogus. This motivation certainly reflects my determination to uncover the mid-20th century world of a Catholic missionary Uncle, discovering how much of my father’s admiration was built on the mirage of priesthood or was the genuine love of an older brother possessed of fatherly characteristics.

Father Kees de Cock performing mass in Uganda, I am guessing in the 1970’s.

In a similar vein, the recording of stories generated by family pictures will engender the full gamut of emotions and inspire their expression. And in time, I hope to exhibit the bravery necessary to capture them in my blog and in my writing.

It and me are a work in progress.

3 thoughts on “By definition

  1. I can see how these words provided the initial impetus to get your words and ideas flowing. If you don’t mind a peek into the mind of a retired teacher of English, my feeling is that once you have used these words to get you going, read your paragraph aloud and rid yourself of any words that don’t flow easily off your tongue. These are the words that are not ‘you’ or which tend to be archaic in terms of common usage. They have done their job by getting your thoughts on track and thus several can be let go.What you have done sounds like a good ‘prompt’ exercise and is probably worth repeating.

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    1. Thank you Anne. You are absolutely right as some of the words would rarely, if ever, find their way into my oral or written communication (‘zaftig’ being the best example). Others would not be out of the realm of possibility although there would likely be limited use, such as ‘cabal’ of ‘scion’. (Coincidentally the latter came up in my daily Wordscape challenge.) I subscribe to a word of the day email with the hope of increasing my vocabulary, particularly for writing where I find myself reaching for the same words. This exercise did show me the limitations of adhering to a strict structure. Mine was using the words in the order in which they were received (including ‘restaraunteur’ at that point was a real stretch for my imagination) and in using words which were not me (such as ‘gossamer’). The majority could find their way into my work, but coming up with a story in the exact order was a challenge and the lesson.
      Your feedback is always appreciated.

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