The 8 Minute Memoir project is for everyone. Not just “writers” but all people. It works like this:
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I post a writing prompt. The topics are sometimes ridiculous, sometimes abstract, sometimes fun, sometimes sad.
When you’re ready and you have some time to yourself, set a timer (really, do this step. It’s so important) for eight minutes, get out your computer, your notebook, your ipad, your journal, and for eight minutes, you write. No stopping, no thinking too hard, no rewriting. Then stop when the eight minutes are up. Of course you can keep going if you would like, but you should never feel like you have to. You can leave a sentence unfinished, a thought hanging, a topic unexplored.
The idea is to make writing about life more manageable. It shouldn’t be overwhelming. It shouldn’t be hard. It shouldn’t be something to do only when we’re old. And it shouldn’t be left to anyone but ourselves. Eight minutes a day, a few times a week, adds up.
Also, if you allow yourself to really try it, to write whatever comes to your head without worrying about what it is, or who might read it, or what it says about you, you’ll start to surprise yourself.
Flannery O’ Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.” Writing not only can help us record memories, it can also help us explore ideas, understand issues and work through problems.
Also, when we write about our life, we open ourselves up to others. William Zinsser once said, “[Writing] can also be an act of healing for you. If you make an honest transaction with your own humanity and with the humanity of the people who crossed your life, no matter how much pain they caused you or you caused them, readers will connect with your journey.”
I started this project for many reasons. Here are five of them:
1. I wanted to do more memoir writing.
2. I wanted to feel connected to other people. I wondered what it would be like if a group of people wrote on the same topic around the same time in all different places. Maybe it would be fun , maybe it would spark conversations, maybe people would even share what they’d written from time to time and maybe we’d find out we are more alike than we thought.
3. I wanted to actually facilitate sharing by having a reading night once a quarter where anyone could come and read some of their memoirs. I hoped that people not in my area might do the same thing in their homes or spaces.
4. I wanted to honor my mom who died three years ago of Alzheimer’s Disease. Every day I miss her. Every day I wish she’d written more down. I wish she’d written about having kids and wiping up vomit and sitting on hardwood floor after a long day and crying–did you ever sit on the floor and cry, Mom? I wish she’d written about her best friends and the dolls she used to play with and whether she fought with her co-workers and if she ever ate entire boxes of Double-stuffed Oreos. I wish she’d written about her dreams–what she wanted more than anything.
I wish she was here. I wish I could talk to her. I wish she could tell me that she sees me and that I’m not alone. She’s not here though and somehow writing about my life makes me feel closer to her, makes me feel like maybe she does see me.
5. I wanted to do something that made me feel uncomfortable.
You can start on day one and go at your own pace, you can join in wherever we are now, or you can jump around. You can do three days a week, one day week, one day a month or maybe none at all but at the very least, you can think about some of the prompts. Maybe it will spark a conversation or a thought or a memory.
I hope you try it!