Memoir Writing Lessons #4 and 5: Check

Yesterday’s memoir writing lesson (#4) from Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away couldn’t be posted. The prompt is to write “I don’t remember,” and the idea is to dredge up the dark stuff. Her point seems to be (and I have to guess because she doesn’t draw it all out for the reader) that a memoir about only good things happening (what she calls protection) wouldn’t be a memoir/book/story/have-enough-conflict. A story, as you know, has to have conflict–that is what creates the story. Otherwise it is merely a description.

She gives permission to destroy what you write from this exercise–so that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands–at least until you’re ready.

Today’s lesson (#5) is:

Tell me what you will miss when you die.

When I die, I will miss the missing. The longing for something that is just out of reach or long past. When I am dead, this life will be completed, a finished product. It can be altered only by perspectives, as different people revise their thoughts of me through time. But my life will be boxed up and sealed with packing tape. Somebody will write with a fat black marker on the side of the box: Luanne 1 of 1. There will be no more dreams and goals, no more maybes. None of that glorious unexplored space that makes up all that world that is not the self. When I die, I will miss my family. They won’t be my family any more because they will move on and change and become different without me within the family as a living presence. So I will miss them in a physical sense, but also miss them as they are now. I will miss my cats. Since I will no longer be able to worry about them, I will worry about them now and make arrangements for their care when I do die. If the gardener and I die together, the cats will be divided among our two children (they want to take them). 5 + 1 + 2 = 8 cats. They will each have 4 cats, although my son might be in a better spot to handle 5 and daughter 3. I will miss helping them negotiate who takes which cats. When I saw this assignment I thought I would list all my favorites: pumpkin pie with whipped cream, fried zucchini (you knew that was coming), chardonnay, sake, Mountain Dew, trees and lakes, peonies and hummingbirds, cats and elephants and bears, the colors coral, ivory, and black, but when my fingers hit the keys I knew it would be the missing that I would most miss.



These are getting harder!


Go ahead and try it. Tell me what you will miss when you die.

young Siren is available at Home Fur Good in Phoenix


Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Nonfiction, Inspiration, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing prompt

19 responses to “Memoir Writing Lessons #4 and 5: Check

  1. Miss the missing is perfect.
    I guess if I were a ghost, I would miss many of things you mention.
    And I would worry about my cats, too. 🙂

  2. Love how you expressed it Luanne. I guess I would break it down to a day, the waking up to my children, the morning sun on my face, birds twittering. my husband arriving for breakfast and out chats. The whole connection to this earth. Great exercise to think about.

  3. I absolutely love this – I don’t think I would have ever thought about missing the ‘missing’ but it’s so perfect. And also a recipe for how to appreciate life, I think.

  4. When I die, I will miss earthly pleasures: the warmth of other hands on my skin, rich food, the aching slide into a hot bath, the sublime feel of freshly laundered cotton sheets,..I will miss flowers and trees and animals, but none so much as I miss comfort here on earth.

    • Beautiful images. I’m kind of fascinated that you said comfort. When I was a senior in high school I had a class called “humanities” with this sort of amazing football coach teacher. We had to write a long paper about ourselves and what we really thought was important (sort of philosophy). I wrote about comfort, oddly enough, where I argued that all the good things were connected with comfort because one needs comfort in her own conscience, etc., as well as physical comforts.

  5. This one was sad, Luanne. It is hard to think of your cats missing you also. Wonderful job on coming up with things that were melancholy without being maudlin. Doing these kinds of exercises can be exhausting from all the feelings that emerge! Brave too.

    • My cats are mostly so old they would be very sad unless Marshal was still around and healthy and able to take good care of them. But luckily the kids are cat-lovers! You’re right: they are exhausting!

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