By Christo­pher Oak Reinier

Scott Reid, teach­es a San­ta Rosa Col­lege Old­er Adults exten­sion class in mem­oir-writ­ing. He does it at the WCCS Senior Cen­ter in Guerneville. The well attend­ed class, “Writ­ing your Life”, meets every Tues­day at the Cen­ter from 2 to 5 pm.

On Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 16, Scott taught the class an “auto­mat­ic writ­ing exer­cise”. After lead­ing us in a relax­ation exer­cise, he had us write with our eyes closed. To give us the feel for writ­ing with our eyes closed, Scott asked us to write “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” a few times on our papers so that we might become com­fort­able with writ­ing by our sense of touch. My writ­ing was almost unread­able, but I got a feel­ing for how to do it.

Before begin­ning the exer­cise, Scott read a brief selec­tion from The Cap­i­tal by Milosz, urg­ing us writing class at senior centerto lis­ten to the sounds of the words. “The sounds of the words,” he explained, “can guide us and lead us to the sounds of the next words.” Then we wrote for ten min­utes with eyes closed, keep­ing the pen writ­ing what­ev­er came to mind, while focus­ing on the sound of the words in the mind, let­ting the sound of the emerg­ing words lead to the next word, with­out wor­ry­ing about it mak­ing sense or keep­ing the line straight on the paper.

After we had worked for ten min­utes, Scott asked us to reread what we had writ­ten and to select one sen­tence from our writ­ing exer­cise. “Dress it up,” he said, “like you were about to take it to the ball.” We spent a few moments of revi­sion, then shared our sen­tences with the group. The selec­tions usu­al­ly had some poet­ry in them, lit­tle flow­ers peek­ing out of a clut­tered pile.  “Let this sen­tence be the start­ing point for your life-sto­ry for next week,” Scott sug­gest­ed.

The exer­cise felt to me like an open­ing of the sub­con­scious, bring­ing per­haps some­thing reveal­ing, sur­pris­ing, even enlight­en­ing, to my aware­ness. Maybe even the seed for my future  mem­oir. Hmmm. Got to get to that some­day. As we get old­er, it’s help­ful to be able to share our sto­ries with each oth­er.

pic of Scott Reidpic of Scott Reid leading classpic of memoir writing class