Through my writing, I learn more about who I am and how I think.”  Juicy Pens Thirsty Paper by SARK.

Lately I’ve learned a lot about the truth in my writing.  My truths lurk in an inner world that is warren-like, crowded by many, often competing, versions deeply buried in a complicated layout of interconnected chambers with dizzying switchbacks and tunnels so narrow and steep I sometimes can’t get to the bottom of the truth!

Life Writers Ink Second Annual Writing Retreat
September 11 and 12, 2010

Truth came looking for me three times during the most recent retreat hosted at my cottage on Otter Lake for the members of my writing group, the “Lifers”.  Allyson Latta, writer, editor, instructor and friend, designed and facilitated the two-day workshop, Illuminating the Path: Finding Theme and Structure in Your Memoir.  All Lifers are Allyson Latta alumni and would never have met or formed the group if it were not for this mutual connection to her.

 The First Truth – Symbolic

The retreat opened with a straightforward game, Runes.  Stones with words carved in one side were turned face down on the table, and we took turns choosing the rune that sought us out.  Giggle all you like, but when my hand passed over a particular rune, I felt a faint tingle in my palm.  Truth came to get me for the first time.

The Second Truth – Cathartic

The event culminated in presenting and discussing the outlines of our memoirs-in-progress.  When it was my turn, the truth snuck up on me, an intense emotional release.  I was dumbfounded to hear my own voice croaking out, “I don’t think I can continue”.  And then I cried.

Working on an assignment the night before, I discovered the real truth about my memoir.   The project I had busily organized into a two-inch binder, tabbed and indexed a few months before had very little to do with the days on the farm where I grew up.  It was really about the conversations I should have had with my mother, the questions never asked and the answers she will never give.  She died in 2004.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” by Robert Frost.

That’s one of Allyson’s favourite quotes.  She also says, “It’s not unusual, it seems, to have tears during one of these workshops. It’s the nature of memoir writing. What makes me feel good is knowing that unless the environment were accepting and the activities gently guided, writers wouldn’t feel they could safely express their emotions.  It’s a breakthrough when such feelings are tapped, especially when paired with insights regarding a path through the past to the bigger story.”

Allyson’s innate compassion paired with wisdom and confident expertise is an incomparable combination, both rare and beautiful.  That she focused all of this fully in my direction helped me go on with my outline … there would never be a safer place to work through this major turning point.  So, without any embarrassment, I continued, squeaking, sniffling and blubbering my way through the rest of my outline.

The Third Truth – Spooky

The retreat closed in a similar fashion to the opening, only this time Angel Cards were placed face down in a circle.   Of the dozens of possibilities, I selected the TRUTH card – even the doubters were slack jawed.

Copyright © 2010, Cheryl Andrews