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Exercise: Remembering "A-ha!"

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingwor kshop.org/).

Prepared by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: Mon, 5 Sep 2005

This is another in our series of Remembering exercises. The purpose of these exercises is to remind us that our own lives are our most basic resource as writers; the best writing is fueled by one's own life, by the events that affected us, how they changed us, and in particular the emotions they inspired. It is easier to describe an angry character if we remember times when we have been angry, for example (and the different ways we've been angry at times.)

The Remembering exercises can be found at http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/pwarchive/.

One particular exercise was Remembering Change; this was a useful exercise, but it was also a broad one, and many submissions dealt with big events that were hard to capture within the exercise word limit. (That exercise can be found at http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/pwarchive/pw85.shtml.)

This exercise will be a variant of Remembering Change.

Many changes sneak up on us when we're not expecting them. And even with the changes we expect, the ones we've worked for, it can take time for the full implications to hit us. It may be days, weeks, even months before we suddenly go "a-ha!" and realize just what that change meant.

In the original exercise, I wrote of the day I came hope expecting to find things as usual, only to find my wife gone - the start of a messy divorce. There were many "a-ha!" moments during and after that whole process, but perhaps none more illuminating than the moment I realized that out of all the mixed emotions I was facing, perhaps the strongest was relief - it was only then that I truly understood how bad things had become in the months and years leading up to the break, as the relationship steadily deteriorated making all of us more and more miserable.

Sometimes, it's a small thing that triggers the realization. Last month was an eventful one for my family, and one of the events was my youngest daughter starting a full-time job. The full meaning of this didn't hit me till we all went out for dinner last week, and she picked up the check.

So, think of "a-ha!" moments in your life. What triggered them? What were the feelings that resulted? How were your views or expectations changed? (For example, once I realized that I was relieved my marriage was over, I was able to focus on making things better for the kids and me in the future.)

Then pick one such moment, and describe it to us as fully as you can, focusing on what was most important for you. Try to keep your submission under 500 words, but don't trim so much that the essence is lost - if you submission really must be longer, then so be it. (Of course, it never hurts to do one final review to see if the text can be strengthened by careful pruning.

The usual warnings apply: you don't need to share anything that might be embarrassing or cause problems, for example. After thinking of a number of such moments in your lives, you don't have to pick a major one; sometimes, looking at the small things can be just as useful. Be honest: tell us what happened, including the various thoughts and feelings, without embellishment - this isn't meant to be art, but simple exploration.

Critiquing such exercises is hard because we are dealing with a person's life and a moment that defined it. Nevertheless, we can share our own reactions to the story (and perhaps relate it to a similar experience of ours); we can point out if something seems to be missing (perhaps something the author took for granted, or failed to consider at all.) Let's be careful not to critique someone's feelings, of course - but at the same time let us not be so delicate we fail to address the issue entirely either.

Send your submissions to the list today through Friday with the subject heading:
   Subject: SUB: Remembering "a-ha!" [your name]

Critique each other's submissions (today until the next exercise is posted) with the subject heading:
   Subject: CRIT: Remembering "a-ha!" [writer's name]

For discussion directly related to the exercise, use the subject header:
   Subject: DISC: Remembering "a-ha!"

Want critiques on this exercise after the exercise ends? Request private critiques with the subject header:
   Subject: OFFER: Remembering "a-ha!" (Respondents must reply off-list).

The current and previous exercises are archived at: http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/pwarchive/

Have fun!


Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.