Doing these types of challenges always reminds me of how important is it to stay disciplined, no matter my circumstances. Today, for example, I decided to apply to a high-paying writing job that I saw on craigslist. Drafting the cover letter, editing my CV, and picking out my best writing samples took most of the day and lots of my energy. To be honest, I almost thought about skipping today’s exercise, but I quickly reeled myself in. Gotta stay focused; gotta remember the purpose of these 30 days: prove to myself that I can write every day, without fail.
Today’s exercise came from a former writing professor of mine, the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Rosner. A year and a half ago, my friend Cyndi and I went to her house in the Berkeley hills for a conversation about writing processes. We sat on her gorgeous patio, underneath the shade of elm trees, and snacked on bits of cheese and wine while we talked. We asked her if she had any useful exercises to get the “creative juices” flowing, and she shared with us an exercise called “I remember…”
The exercise is this: choose any subject you like, and start making a list of any and all the memories you have about it starting with “I remember…” Try not to censor yourself.
I chose my 84-year-old grandmother, who is leaving back to El Salvador tomorrow night as my subject. I have to admit that in the course of my writing I was already finding myself growing sad – we grew close over her three-month stay. I also found myself laughing out loud at some of the memories I had. For example: “I remember how much she loved Cheetos and Doritos with every meal” and “I remember her honest laugh, and how she covered her face whenever she burst into laughter.” It’s a great pre-writing exercise, especially because I’m writing a short piece about her for Being Latino and also drafting a short story for my book.
Here’s a picture of her, mixing some masa to make the best handmade tortillas you’ll ever taste. This is how I’ll always remember her – always thinking about others before herself.
Oh, abuela, how I’ll miss you.