Monday, February 27, 2006

"Life changes in an instant"

"Life changes in an instant," is the second line of Joan Didion's memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, and the title of an article in my local paper, announcing that Didion is speaking on our campus Tuesday night. The Writing From Personal Experience workshop that normally meets at my house on Tuesdays will get together and go to the talk instead.

I gave this assignment/suggestion: use as a prompt anything that strikes you about the evening--our carpooling, walking to campus from town, the conversation you overhear waiting in line, Joan Didion's body language, the hat the person seated in front of you is wearing, etc.

What a relief: the workshop isn't school, where the assignment might be to go hear a lecture and write critically about what the speaker discusses. Sure, there's a place for that, but we're not covering the Didion event for the newspaper. We can write about what moves us, what we notice, a gesture that triggers memory. And anyway, I'm always attracted to journalism that include a careful intrusion of first-person experience.

The next time you're at an event, try this: write about what ignites your imagination. Watch yourself meander on the page. Have fun. Remember: writing isn't (anymore) homework.

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