On Monday, I signed up for a Memoir writing workshop on the recommendation of my mentor. The five-day workshop is held once a week, and is meant for those who are 50 and above and had attended the autobiography workshop held previously. Needless to say, my classmates comprise of retirees who mostly know one another.
The first lesson, we learnt the difference between autobiography and memoir. Not very much, except memoirs are written very similarly to how you would write a fiction – show, not tell – said my lecturer, echoing the very same words my mentor often wrote in her feedback to me.
Amazingly, my classmates had very good memories of their childhood, based on what they had shared. Shamefully, as the youngest, I probably have the worst memory of my life. So you can imagine when I was given the homework for this week, how much I struggled – To write about one turning point in my life.
Just to be precise, as I had just studied Socrates on Coursera, I checked the various dictionaries online. Turning Point – a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results; The point at which a very significant change occurs; a moment when the course of events is changed:
There are many turning points in my life, of course, but nothing so interesting that I can write a thousand-word essay about it. It’s much easier to write fiction, where I can let my imaginations run wild. Here, I am bounded by a degree of accuracy which unfortunately is hampered by poor memory.
After cracking my head for two days, I decided to seek my sister’s help. After all, she is forever complaining that I cannot remember anything, inferring that she never forgets. Her lists came almost immediately: Marriage, motherhood, holiday alone, your jogging start, or that time when you were so stressed up in NUS you have to consult a psychiatrist?
An aunt helpfully suggested after seeing my Facebook post: Giving up your job to be SAHM; or the time you realised that having to mould two sons (into the men I want them to be) is much harder than dealing with jag lag from constant travelling for work. Wow, I must had complained to her so much she can recall and I can’t.
It’s no wonder every time I start to write my grandmother’s story, I get stuck, not because of what I had first thought, that her poor articulation is due to her poor memory; but more because she might be feeling exactly as I am feeling now, that there is nothing of interest to tell about her life story.
One aspect of writing memoirs which we discussed in class was the washing of dirty linens in public, and how other people in the family might not appreciate that. A classmate is afraid she would get sued. My mentor revealed she was beaten with a rolled-up newspaper by her aunt for writing poorly about her own father.
My family members are probably jittery now when they read this. It could be fun, after all. But then again, my homework is due this Friday. I have no time for blogging.