We tend to revisit our prisons. And we always go back. This is not only true for reservation Indians, of course. I have white friends who grew up very comfortably, but who hate their families, and yet they go back everything Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year, they’re ruined until February. I’m always telling them, “You know, you don’t have to go. You can come to my house.” Why are they addicted to being demeaned and devalued by the people who are supposed to love them? So you can see the broader applicability: I’m in the suburb of my mind. I’m in the farm town of my mind. I’m in the childhood bedroom of my mind.
I think every writer stands in the doorway of their prison. Half in, half out. The very act of storytelling is a return to the prison of what torments us and keeps us captive, and writers are repeat offenders. You go through this whole journey with your prison, revisiting it in your mind. Hopefully, you get to a point when you realise there was beauty in your prison, too. Maybe, when you get to that point, “I’m on the reservation of my mind” can also be a beautiful thing. It’s on the rez, after all, where I learnt to tell stories. Sherman Alexie, author of Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
The journal is mostly a means to free yourself of the misguided belief that writing should be Important and For a Lofty Purpose, and to remind yourself that writing is something that’s always worth doing. It supplements and stimulates other writing. Never stop keeping one even when you are weighed under with other work.
We are haunted by our childhoods, by the important things we lost on the long walk to adulthood: the intensity of love and fear, the talismanic rituals and objects of affection, and the moments of certain comprehension of our place in the scheme of things.
Name those things that scare you. In that way, you will discover themes to magnify which will frighten the reader even more than yourself.
Time is the filter of memories. It transmutes painful memories into poetry. It purifies. Make your peace with the wounding and the lost years. You will find that the most important things are the hardest to write because words diminish their power.
Every memory is a potential gain. It is just in the way you can frame the experience. The key is to ask ‘What next?’ not ‘Why me?’
When have you lost or found something, someone or some opportunity?
Start with either finding or losing, though losing always has the most memories and feelings attached.
Write about those moments you never forget.
Don’t just react emotionally to old memories. Capture and interrogate them to find another layer of meaning.