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 to 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.