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An Invitation

By Liz Dossa

As the years roll by, have you felt a nudge to capture moments of your life in words? Perhaps you have wondered how to begin or whether it is worth the time. Should you start with your first birthday and work forward year by year?

Most of us remember snatches here and there: the time you summoned the courage to climb the tree in the backyard and fell out of it. Your first day teaching a classroom of 25 wiggly third graders.

Mercy Center has a tradition of gathering people to form compassionate community and to give us space to explore our lives, through prayer, silence and with words.

In Writing Your Life, which has been presented by Mercy Center over the past four years, we focus on life’s themes rather than years. To begin, class members identify the branching points in their lives, simply listing the places where roads diverged and life changed—a career or vocation choice, a death, a marriage. Then in each session, a writing prompt is given to stimulate memories, but writers are always free to write about what feels important to them. 

In the class group, we work on exercises that also focus on writing techniques, ways to encourage the effectiveness of your writing—using detail, story arc, and metaphor, for example. During an in-class exercise recently, one writer described the view of ploughed fields from her window that morning, evoking the scene for all. Another thoughtfully regarded his recent birdwatching as surprisingly like writing—catching detail, observing and finding patterns. Moments in a faith journey are often shared.

Part of the time is spent in small groups working together, listening to each other’s stories. We learn about each other’s lives and reflect on our own. Different perspectives contribute to the richness of the class. Writing Your Life has helped people give form to memories and trace themes woven throughout our lives

As we try to catch those themes in writing, our writing improves, is more exact, more evocative, more telling. Exercises in class stress clearer more impactful writing through examples, but also through listening to each other’s writing.

Another aspect of Writing Your Life is underlying: observing our lives as we move through our days now. It is a discipline of noticing our lives as they unfold around and within us.

Does writing about your life call you? Do you think about your life experiences you would like to revisit or resolve? Would you like to leave written memories for your family members? Perhaps you need a nudge of deadlines and the support of a community. As Noel Coward wrote in his poem Nothing is Lost:

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard

The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise

You are invited to visit these moments of discovery, growth and change–gold that is waiting to shine.

Check out the Mercy online writing program offered by Liz Dossa and Linda Bradford, RSM.
Registration is open until August 27,2024.

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