Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Writing Memoir Helped Me Grow As a Person - by Sharon Lippincott

In place of Telling the Truth Tuesday, here is a guest post from my good friend, Sharon Lippincott on how writing memoir helped her grow as a person. Since lifewriting (memoir) is the truth of our lives, it is appropriate. And now, here's Sharon:

Several months ago I made a commitment to writing a memoir of my girlhood in Los Alamos. That was a unique place to grow up, especially right after World War II, when the world was booming — and so were test shots on nearby mesas (none radioactive). My challenge is to craft a memoir that balances time and place with my personal story. I want the book to appeal to people who are interested in Los Alamos and its history, even if they never heard of me.

As I pondered a few dark key memories, especially about fitting in at school, a stunning thing happened. Those images suddenly reversed. I discovered that if I turned things around 180º, they looked quite different. If I was left out, it probably happened once or twice a year, certainly not every day. Happy memories began flooding back. Some, like being the last one chosen for softball teams no longer mattered. Those dark memories were nothing but negatives for “printing” a positive picture.

Other less tangible memories like my ongoing fascination and subliminal awareness of Indian “spirit” surfaced. I recognized the paradox most of us lived with — fascination with science and technology on one hand and a thriving community of churches on the other.

I don’t think I would have retrieved and developed many of these memories or connected the dots between them if I hadn’t determined to write this memoir. There is something about the process of writing that breathes new life into old thoughts, revitalizing them and displaying them in new contexts and colors.

My involvement in the overall field of life writing has become yet another career that’s a source of joy and satisfaction I never found in my earlier work. Writing memoir is giving me the opportunity to find the roots of my strengths and prune the energy sapping weeds from my view of the past. And that has to be a good thing.

Thank you, Sharon, for these wonderful insights into memoir writing.

Sharon Lippincott never set out to write a memoir. She only intended to write a few stories to share with her grandchildren, so they’d know what life was like when she was young. That intention took on a life of its own. She discovered that she loved writing stories about her life and the people in it. She fell in love with this earthy, open, informal style of writing. She joined internet groups, read everything she could find, and began teaching lifestory writing workshops at local senior centers, libraries and continuing ed programs.

Then her pile of handouts got out of control and morphed into a book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing. As soon as she committed to writing that book, she started a blog on the subject and joined Story Circle Network, a women’s organization that at the time, was the only organization she was aware of for lifestory and memoir writers. Shortly after that, Jerry Waxler, a fellow blogger, joined with Sharon to start the Life Writers Forum to provide a non-exclusive place for memoir writers to collaborate and grow together.

The next phase began about a year ago when Linda Joy Meyers asked her to serve on the Advisory Board for the newly formed National Association of Memoir Writers. That was a timely turning point. Sharon had piled up over 500 vignette stories There were plenty more to write, but penning random stories had lost its challenge. She’d published a short memoir of her preschool years, and was ready for a bigger project. Her involvement with NAMW motivated her to study the power of memoir and its tranformative value, and the more she learned, the more intrigued she became.

I found Sharon when I began my internet marketing experience after publishing “Following the Whispers.” She was one of the first people I “met” and, in addition to writing a stellar review of my memoir,” Sharon turned me on to all sorts of groups, including NAMW and Story Circle Network. She has provided the following links—do yourselves a favor and check them out.


Sharon’s blog: http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/
Sharon’s book: http://snurl.com/vgejv
Life Writers Forum: http://www.lifewritersforum.com/
Story Circle Network: http://www.storycircle.org/
National Association of Memoir Writers: http://www.namw.org/


Kendra Bonnett said...

Wow, more than 500 vignettes. I bow to a mechanic (one of my favorite lines from the old Rat Pack movie, Robin and the Seven Hoods).

Sharon, I find your insight for transforming our vision of the past by turning the lens 180 degrees most interesting. It does provide a better, perhaps more healthy, perspective.

Thanks for your piece, and thanks to Karen for giving you the opportunity to blog here.

Mason Canyon said...

Wonderful post. Enjoyed meeting Sharon. You bring up an interesting point, sometimes if we look at something from a different view point - it changes completely. I guess we all need to do that more with the bad things in our lives and it would help us realize how good it really is. Thanks for sharing.

Thoughts in Progress

Jody Hedlund said...

What an insightful post into memoir writing! I love what Sharon says: "Writing memoir is giving me the opportunity to find the roots of my strengths and prune the energy sapping weeds from my view of the past." Wow! That sounds like an incredible way to help us grow! Thanks for sharing!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Kendra, Mason, Jody, thanks for the words of support. As I sit here writing this response, I realize that much of the time writing about such personal things as we put in blogs, especially about memoir, feels a bit like walking a high wire before a circus audience. Comments, especially like yours, are the safety net under the wire. Thank you for being there, and thanks to Karen for inviting me to guest post.

With the continual repetition of the words "Thank you" in blog comments, we are generating so much good Attitude of Gratitude karma, we may yet change the world.

Marvin D Wilson said...

Appreciated your sharing, Sharon. As a memoir writer myself, I can tell you I went through a lot of the same experiences. To me it was cathartic and healing, as I was writing mine right after a very dark period of my life.

Helen Ginger said...

It's so interesting to read the steps Sharon took to arrive at where she is today, and to see how the two of you met.

Straight From Hel

Saumya said...

This is a wonderful post. I am taking my first memoir workshop right now and it is really great to see the way Sharon evolved through her writing. Thanks for sharing!!

Ann said...

Great post. Interesting reading Sharon's insights.

Saumya said...

P.S. Your blog is so wonderful!

Karen Walker said...

Hi everyone,
I was out this morning at a session with my awesome writing coach. I've come back filled with renewed energy and find this wonderful discussion happening.
Sharon, thanks so much for this guest post. The experience of writing memoir is unlike anything else and I believe it is different for each person. Each step for me was a learning experience. I believe we can learn much from writers in other genres, regardless of which genre we write in.

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is an amazing story of following our instincts and our opportunities. It all comes back to paying attention, doesn't it? Sharon, you're an inspiration.

Memoir is something I never thought about much until a local memoir critique group began meeting at the Northern Colorado Writers studio the same afternoon I worked as the volunteer "studio monitor." I can't help but hear the group's readings and discussion...and it's giving me ideas. Is this another one of those serendipitous events that I mustn't ignore? We'll see...

Jen said...

What a great post for memoir writing, I never say never so this post will be remembered :)

Sharon Lippincott said...

Hello, good evening, and thank all of you so much for the lovely comments, and thank you Karen for introducing me to your devoted followers. What a delightful group they are. I was gone much of the day and unable to watch as the comments came in. I wish you all well in your writing, whatever form it takes. Perhaps you can join in on the Life Writers Forum to continue the discussion. Learn more at http://www.lifewritersforum.com