Newly minted writers are always a joy to encounter because they view writing with fresh eyes (see post, Beginners Mind). That’s why I was very excited when my wonderful husband David, an ace genealogical researcher, passed on a story from “American Ancestors” magazine* by Margaret Hendrick. An adoptee, Margaret spent years tracing her family tree in order to find “my roots, my foundation, perhaps my identity.” She achieved a major life goal when she published Against the Tides: An Adoption Memoir, chronicling her search .
“I was truly less than even a novice writer when I started my memoir,” Margaret notes. “Not one of my early teachers, relatives, or friends ever commented positively on my writing skills, so I never wrote more than a Christmas card.” “She signed up for an internet course on “writing a memoir” run by the Gotham Writers Workshop and went to town. She worked on her memoir for four years. Based on her experience, she offers some valuable advice:
“First, just write. Let your ideas fall on the page. Write about walking down the street, write about an experience at the grocery store. Write about just one episode in your life. Just write and see where it takes you.
“One of the things that helped me be a better writer was listening to books on tape. I found I only absorb the rhythm of a book by hearing it. And from there I found my own rhythm.
“Take a train trip and write the whole time. I was amazed at what came out of me while enroute to Washington, D.C. I am not sure why riding a train was so helpful, but it was. I have since heard that other people have had the same experience.
“Read books on writing. I valued this advice from Stephen King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: ‘When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.’
“My final bit of advice would be to rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite! Every time I edited the memoir, I tightened up the story.”
Timely tips from a freshly minted author to inspire us all as we write on!
* American Ancestors, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Vol. 18, no. 2,