Here’s another fun writing exercise that forced me to look at my experiences/memories in a more focused way. In addition, it helped me be as concise as possible.
The exercise is to select a 10-year period in your life. I happened to choose ages 10-20, but you could select 12-22, 47-57. Just make sure you limit yourself to 10 years. Then instead of a timed writing this exercise forced me to stay with it for about two hours since I had to fill up two pages. A side note: I write pretty much write all rough drafts and writing exercises by hand, so your “pages” may be different than mine. Lastly, and this is the fun part. You can only use THREE, yes THREE words in each sentence! 🙂 Here’s an excerpt from my attempt. I don’t necessarily have “sentences” but I have attempted to string three words together. In any case, there are enough details for me to remember moments that I can expand later.
**Bonus: Once you have completed the two pages, read back through it and when you come to an area that jumps off the page at you, spend another two pages writing solely on that topic.
Fall of 1985. 10 years old. My parents divorce. We must move. Mirror slices hand. We destroy house. Color on walls. Rip up carpet. Pull up tacks. Wagon packed up. Drive at night. Spooky new house. Wood covered walls. Chinese paper lantern. Dolls behind glass. Scary new school. Pretty blonde girl. Free lunch sevens. Many nose bleeds. Never see dad. Grandma moves in. She smokes Kools. Scoots house shoes. She eats SnoBalls. We watch Cheers. She curls my hair. She loves me. Grandma gets sick. She breathes loudly. Three purple X’s. Along her chest. Not long now.
I won’t post the rest, but even at this point, I have been able to grab the most vivid memories and distill them to a point I get at the essence of what was going on. The three purple X’s were drawn on her chest to mark where the radiation would be beamed into her (I don’t even know the right words for it all). I remember vividly seeing these purple X’s on her and the doctors so proud that they had burned away all her cancer only to find out they had burned her esophagus to the point she would never be able to eat again. I was 13 when she died and I have never forgotten those X’s. This exercise proved to be so helpful to me in mining my life experiences that I ended up doing it again for ages 21-31!
Happy writing! 🙂