Sunday, January 07, 2007

POV Sheela

Here's some advise by Sheela Hastings Wolford in response to Keisha's question: how do I begin my autobiography?

Perhaps I can best explain my approach my stating what a person SHOULDN'T do, since I have more experience there.

1) Don't think every word has to be magic.
2) Don't think you should scrap the whole thing and start over.
3) Don't hold back on real events (even if it's going to get your family mad).
4) Don't put the paper down and give up.
5) Don't expect it to flow out perfectly the first time.

Now, let me try, as I am trying now at the age of 51, to approach how to start:

1) Give thanks that you have the gift of writing and you have not rejected it.
2) Take a long walk every day and let your ideas "moodle" their way to you.
3) Read at some point every day.
4) Stay aware of your work as you are doing other work and JOT it down when it comes to you.
5) Speak honestly in the moment.
6) Do a free write at the beginning or morning pages to censor the critic in your head.
7) Don't show anyone until you are FINISHED. (This is the Stephen King approach and I believe in him.)
8) Rewrite, revise after you've let your Ideal Reader (someone you trust as a writer and reader) read it. Listen to their comments.
9) Edit and rework as much as YOU THINK it needs it.
10) Now look for an agent.

Lastly, a few semesters ago, I followed another teacher's lesson plan for memoir writing and in it she gave a lesson developed by a Native American and I found this exercise very helpful. Here it is:

Take your life and divide it into four equal parts of your age. For example, if you are 25, divide your life from birth to six, six to 12, 12 to 18, and 18 to 25. These are the four seasons of your life. Within each of those seasons start writing. You can ask yourself pointed questions and answer each in those periods and then pull out the story for your autobiography. I agree with Jude in thinking about the MOST important events that mark your life. Maybe the seasons can be the bone structure he writes about.

Whatever you do, do it with gusto and heart. If you don't have the heart to write about your life, no one will want to read it. Finally, when you get bored and start rambling, shut the notebook or file and take a walk.

It's moodling time.


At 10:54 AM , Blogger Eben Reilly said...


Your don't are as good as your do's.

While every word is not magic, the writing of every word sure feels that way.

I do hope Di of Vermont and Keisha stop by the blog site; your words certainly can be a push off the edge of the pool for any new writer.

At 10:35 PM , Blogger Sheela Wolford said...

Thank you, Eileen. It has taken me a long, long time to realize it is magic and I have you to thank for that. It is magic. It is magic.


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