Writer Aid: Stumped? Take a Look at Your Life

Sometimes you can’t know where you’re going until you understand where you’ve been. That thought and a recent milestone birthday got me started  making lists. How many newspapers have I worked for on staff? (11). How many publications have I freelanced for? (30?) How many non-writer jobs have I had? (too many) How many books have I published? (5) How many have I written but not published? (10?) How many years have I been performing music? (30+) And so it goes. What places have I been, what life experiences have I had? Where do I still want to go? What do I still want to do? What would I feel bad about not doing?

I even listed all the places I’ve lived (10) and all the cars I have owned (6). Why? I’m trying to get a clear, unbiased look at who I am and what I have done in my 60 years of life. Have I done enough of what I wanted to do? Is it time to start something new or should I continue on the old paths? What have I talked about doing and what have I actually done?

Asking all these questions might seem a little self-absorbed, but it can help us uncover things to write about. For example, I can write about freelance writing, book publishing, Alzheimer’s Disease, yoga, raising mutts, folk music, church music, step-parenting, travel, cataract surgery, living alone, and needlepoint. As a nearsighted, left-handed, Catholic, Portuguese-American, childless, twice married, once divorced, once widowed baby boomer writer-musician-teacher from California relocated to Oregon, I have so many things to write about that I’ll never run out.

What about you? Try making some lists. Whatever your age, I think you’ll find some surprises. Try these, then come up with some of your own.

* List all the places where you have lived.

* List all of your education, formal or not.

* What jobs have you had?

* What else have you done for money?

* What volunteer activities have you done?

* List marriages and serious relationships.

* List your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Include stepchildren, foster children and anyone you consider your children.

* Where have you traveled? How many states? How many countries?

* What do you know a lot about?

* What are you most proud of?

* What do you enjoy so much that you lose track of time when you’re doing it?

I could list questions forever, but if you start on these, you’ll probably discover your own questions. In this fast-paced, media-drenched world, I think it’s helpful to stop and look at where you’ve been and where you’re going, whether you’re a writer seeking ideas or anyone worrying that you might have lost your way or haven’t accomplished anything.

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