(Every now and then I’ll do some timed writing exercises in Natalie Goldberg’s books, most recently from “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir.” It’s fun to see what you can unearth from your own psyche in 10 short minutes, and Goldberg is a master at drawing out the unexpected with her breadth and depth of topics. I highly recommend her work for any writer, or for anyone curious enough to tap that well of memory and see whatever light or dark ripples appear. Below is one of mine, unedited.)
I would like to tell you about the storage unit I had for two weeks when I was in between apartments several years ago. But it was just a square concrete box without features or markings. And the moving men packed everything into a neat jigsaw puzzle, so the only thing left to do was click the padlock and walk out and wait fourteen days to reclaim my stuff. Instead, I can tell you about the second bedroom of the place I had moved out of, which in effect held everything I wished to ignore, forget about, or hold out of my sight for fear of the in-between place they occupied in my life. Pictures of my friends and I in college. Framed posters that hung in my teen-age bedroom and later my first apartment. A green rug I bought for $75 at Urban Outfitters. Floor pillows whose covers my mother had sewed, covered in layers of cat hair. A stray lamp. My rarely used ironing board. And all the books I owned—arranged in a bookshelf and packed away in too-heavy boxes—because for awhile they needed to be in another room, not front and center, because somehow I was more aware of men, relationships, a career, and glamorous outfits than the driving pulse of literature that had always occupied my soul.