But does it hold water?
I can't remember the name or subject of the class, but when I was in high school, one of our assignments was to give a demonstration speech.
One boy brought in a hockey stick and explained how to put a curve to the blade. It was a hat-trick* presentation ... 1) he was prepared, 2) he delivered his presentation with enthusiasm, and 3) with before and after hockey sticks on hand, he had relevant, engaging props. Even though I've never played hockey, I enjoyed the presentation.
When it was my turn, I initiated a hands-on origami exercise. The class followed along and we all folded a square sheet of paper into a cup. I recall some murmuring and a few moans and groans when I passed out the paper, but I won them over when I poured water from a pitcher into my cup and demonstrated that it would in fact, hold water.
It was the start of an origami obsession.
My next goal was to fold an origami crane and when I had that figured out, I challenged myself to fold one without looking at the directions. Still can.
Today is World Origami Day. If you want to ease into the art of origami, learn how to fold a cup that holds water, click here.
*In hockey, a hat-trick is when one player scores three goals in a single game. That kid put it in the net.
A Memoir in Letters
It started with a simple request by mail. Helene Hanff of New York City writes to Marks & Co. in London requesting a book and Frank Doel writes back. It was the beginning of a correspondence that would last 20 years.
Though the letters were never written to be used as memoir, it's a fine example of how letter writing can, and often does, serve as memoir.
Through a shared love of books, the letters reveal quirky personalities, the hardship of war, and the transformative power of friendship. Hanff's humorous, brusque style and bookseller Frank Doel's polite manner combine to make this a thoroughly charming book ... and quick read.
If you're interested in writing letters but need some encouragement and guidance, check out A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice. I wrote the book after hearing so many people shy away from writing because they were worried about their handwriting, didn't know what to write about, and often, not even sure who to write to.
What if I told you to think about letter writing as a conversation. Imagine you're sitting across the kitchen table from the person you're writing to. What would you say? Write that.
That may sound too simple, but really, that's it.
Inside the book you'll find ideas for who to write to and what to write about, along with a primer on learning or improving your cursive handwriting. Because be it loopy and large or compact and not so large, your handwriting is what people so enjoy seeing. Really.
And if you 're still not convinced, request a real postcard welcome. I'll write to you and you'll see, getting mail feels good.
Do you make your bed? I know my mother encouraged it when I was growing up, but it was my grandmother who found a way to make it happen ... and I still think of her when I change the sheets.
There was no pestering or pleading, she simply set the scene ... with new bedding. It was the best after-school treat I never imagined.
It was mid-afternoon when I arrived home from school and found the mismatched jumble of pillows, sheets, and blankets I'd left on the bed earlier in the day replaced with perfectly plump pillows and coordinated sheets tucked under a matching comforter.
I was spellbound.
Nothing but the bedding had changed, but there was new order to my small room, and I was all in.
The 11th of the month is Make Your Bed Day (get your calendar of days writing prompts here). Some do, some don't ... some only when company's coming. But there's evidence that suggests it might be a good idea. It was also a key point in Admiral William H. McRaven's popular commencement address delivered to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas.
"If you make your bed every morning," McRaven says, "you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another and another."
He goes on to say that even if you have a miserable day, when it's time for bed, you will be reminded that you did in fact accomplish something that day ... you made your bed.
I made mine. Did you?
Tucked or untucked?
p.s. The same could be said for your writing. I like to write first thing in the morning. That way it's done before there are so many other distractions. If you do, that will be at least two things you will have accomplished for the day. Try it and let me know how it goes.
Is it any wonder?
I asked myself that this morning. Is it any wonder people so often talk and write about the weather?
I suppose it's because it's always there ... the forecast ... in some parenthetical way. We mostly go about our business, but if a storm is brewing, if there's a shift in the humidity, the heat, the cold, or the dew point, there's an underlying awareness. Even animals sense a shift in the barometer.
It's hard to ignore.
Hurricane Henri hit southern New England yesterday and continues to lash the area with gusty winds and plenty of rain.
Watching the news updates and warnings, I noticed a flag graphic ... a hurricane flag. So I looked it up and discovered:
If a hurricane is brewing, it's two flags:
- one red flag with a black square in the middle signals a tropical storm
- fly two together and there's a hurricane on the horizon
Using research and detail in your writing
It's the sort of detail that adds depth to your writing ... especially if you're writing about hurricanes.
The biggest weather event I can recall is the 1998 ice storm here in Maine. Overnight the landscape changed. It was as if we had been transported and put under glass, like in a snow globe. We woke to a world where everything was coated in ice. Everything. Tree boughs bowed under the weight of the inch-thick ice that encased them, power lines sagged, and the crack of trees branches snapping under the weight sounded like rifle shot. We lost power for a week and recorded a low temperature of 34°F ... in the kitchen.
There's no flag for that
It's a story I could write about, but it brings no joy, no overarching lesson I want to revisit, so I'll leave it be.
But I do want to write about snow.
And you? Is there a weather event so vivid in your mind's eye you might want to write about it? Grab the Story Inventory and see what comes of it.
My life's not that interesting.
That's what someone wrote in the comment section of the memoir survey I sent a while ago.
It's not what I expected, and I don't believe it's true.
After all, what makes an interesting life to one person may not be interesting to another. Is an interesting life one with lots of travel? A successful career? Life on a farm? Sailing around the world? Lots of dinner parties and dancing?
Any one of those things might fill your days, but I'm not sure that would guarantee a good memoir. What makes a good memoir is your take on the world ... how you see things, and why they matter.
Your perspective is what people want to read about.
I like to write about the unexpected, curious ways the commonplace can (and does) surprise me. When I write, it's often about things like acorns pinging off the neighbor's metal roof (how loud is that inside the house?), the cat with the green eyes hiding the tall grass, and the soft rain that put me to sleep. And those are the stories people comment on ... because they can relate to them. They've experienced something similar, or it reminds them of something.
Where you go is what you see.
So don't worry about whether or not you have an interesting life. Where you go with your writing and memoir is more about what you see and how something made you feel.
Whether you write about your business, family life, hobbies, or personal challenge, it's the lessons you learned, the experiences you had, and how they affected you that people want to read about.
When I re-read some of the stories I've written, they remind me of different times in my life; a life filled with curiosity and attention to detail. And that's what matters, no matter where or how you live your life. What do you see? How do you feel?
Write about that.
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