Here’s a simple exercise to help you re-imagine the details of your life:
Sit comfortably with a pen and notepad ready. Close your eyes and relax, then let your mind find that special place you knew as a child, the place where you were most yourself.
How old were you then? Were you alone or with someone else? Was the space wide or constricted? Feel the landscape, or if inside, feel the closeness of the room.
If you can’t remember the finer details of your special place, start to imagine them. In this imaginative world, do you feel hot or cold? What can you hear, smell or taste? What do you want?
If you can’t remember the fine details of the life story you need to recreate, how do you write effectively?
Begin to write in the present tense. For example, ‘I am walking to school. The air is heavy. Storm coming over the ranges. Sarah is ahead of me. She stops to talk’.
Write continuously for three to five minutes, then read the result. If you have let your imagination take over the writing will read as fiction, but is it? How can you be sure that what you have written did not come from actual memories?
You may find this exercise leading you into territory very different to the familiar and safe reality of the story you thought you knew.
So the secret to a writing a great story is this:
You are not yourself in autobiography. It is never going to be you, it is only words on a page. Memories are unreliable, so adding the magic of imagination will make your story come alive.
Your Life Story: How to Turn Life into Literature by Kay H. Rennie