Why are we reading if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may again feel their majesty and power? --Annie Dillard, The Writing Life Writing is a way of making sense of the world. In recovery, I believe that creative writing is an important form of self-discovery. Personally, I often don’t know what I think—not fully—until I write about it. I think memoir-writing can be one of the most profound experiences of the recovery journey in terms of: making sense of what happened, learning how your early years fit into the narrative, how you stumbled and how you recovered, survived, even flourished. What were the demons? Where was the mystery? Was there a spiritual component? Where are you now? Let’s get started with Job One, which is to unearth your life. I want you to gather all the snapshots and old journals, all the raw material you can find to jog your memory on what contributed to your behaving the way you did. Workshops.

This is where you will find the great juiciness of your story. Sometimes, nothing is more evocative than an old ticket stub from a concert, or a prom photo. Who were you close to in childhood? Was there a pivotal incident, perhaps one you’ve forgotten , or haven’t re-examined in the right light? For me, there is an image of me standing with a judge in South Africa. I am 10. I have just won second prize for a singing solo —first for voice, but second for delivery. Overcome with stage fright, I sang the solo with my back to the audience. It was that same self-consciousness that later, I would tamp down with alcohol. It’s important to be the best expert with your own material. Know it backwards. Keep a notebook with you at all times. You have no idea when the breadcrumbs will appear, the ones leading you on the path to those powerful memories, the ones so pivotal to your narrative. Take a minute and think about it. As you begin to isolate those moments, you may begin to see a theme. Becoming a hunter-gatherer. Drag all of the wood out of the river, up onto the shore. Let it dry out, examine it. There are clues.

The next part of the journey is shaping your story. For this, you are going to use stickies or index cards.

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