Last week at the Celebration library, the Celebration writers group hosted an author named Patricia Charpentier, writer of the book “Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time”. She was there to talk about how to write one’s life story. As I blog a lot about my own life — and have a not-so-secret interest in perhaps writing fiction, if only my demons would stop getting in the way — I figured this would be relevant to my interests.
And it was. “The only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all,” she said. “It’s about capturing moments, not broad panoramic views. People always go too big; broad brushstrokes are too general and aren’t interesting enough. Don’t try to tell too large of a story. It’s like pointalism artwork: don’t think about the painting; think about the dots.”
That was useful to me. I think the reason I freeze up when I try to write is that I immediately go big, think epic, and how do you write the first sentence of an epic?
On May 24, Disney held an “All-Nighter” event at its parks. From six in the morning on Friday until six in the morning on Saturday, the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Park, and Disney California Adventure would be open. Twenty-four hours, straight through!
And of course Jill and I had to be there.
So I was taking the trash out on Monday evening when I was approached by a cat.
It was dark out, and it was a black cat. I didn’t realize what was happening until two people riding bicycles on the street called over to me: “He’s been following us around and we’re worried he’s going to follow us home. Would you distract him for a moment so we can get away?” And that’s when he trotted over to me. “Thanks!” said the bikers, and rode away.
It was a small black cat. A kitten, really. Regular-cat-shaped, but not yet full sized; couldn’t have been older than a year. Bright amber eyes, more orange than yellow. It twined around my feet and rubbed up against my ankles. It made a squeaky little meow. I petted it; it pushed its head eagerly into my hand and purred.
A few days ago I was helping someone with some computer problems when I discovered she has a thousand unsent messages in Outlook. I was astonished. “You’re in the middle of writing a thousand emails?” I asked her.
“No, that’s where I keep any scraps of information I want to save for later!” she replied. “Web links, notes, bits of text I want to copy and store away…”
Mom once told me a story of when she was a little girl, and the kid down the street had a new battery-operated light on his bike. “I’m not supposed to use up the battery,” he said, but he proudly switched the light on and then quickly off again.
“Maybe that was the last time it will work,” Mom said, “maybe you used up the battery.”
“Nuh-uh!” the boy said, and switched the light on and off again.
“Maybe that was the last time,” Mom teased.