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
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
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
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: SUB: Remembering "a-ha!" [your name]
Critique each other's submissions (today
until the next exercise is
with the subject heading:
Subject: CRIT: Remembering "a-ha!" [writer's name]
For discussion directly related to the
exercise, use the subject
Subject: DISC: Remembering "a-ha!"
Want critiques on this exercise after the
exercise ends? Request
critiques with the subject header:
Subject: OFFER: Remembering "a-ha!"
(Respondents must reply off-list).
The current and previous exercises are
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.