Sometimes practically applying the knowledge that you’ve learned seems hopelessly impossible. Sure, the words on the page, the pictures in the diagram, the description from the person with more experience makes sense. But when you take what you’ve been told and try to put it into practice, sometimes you just fall flat on your face.
Finding a way to do a Year in Review series has been a perfect example of this. I mentioned a while ago that I intended to do a 2011 Year in Review series. I started working on it in November, then let it go. But as I was reflecting again on this year, I realized I needed to write about it.
In September I read The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life. The author, Marion Roach Smith, focuses on how to write memoirs, whether an op-ed, or a blog, or an essay, or a full book. I heard her on NPR a couple of weeks before the bar exam, was impressed, and bought the book. I found it fairly helpful (though honestly, if you ask me for specifics right now, I’m blanking…) in terms of how to write about one’s experience without it being completely boring because it’s just about, well, you.
You see, most of our own lives aren’t interesting enough for people to read about, we’re unknown. To overcome this, Smith encourages writers to focus on the “algorithm,” a universal truth or experience you have come to understand that people can relate to, use your personal experiences to illustrate that, and bring it back to the truth/experience.
The algorithm is compelling, especially because it seems to make a memoir project a little less narcissistic.
As I’ve tried to write about the past twelve months, though, I find it hard to relate things back to bigger truths or experiences…maybe that’s why I’ve hesitated to go through with this project. Browsing the covers of Year in Review magazines while in the grocery store line doesn’t help. A royal wedding, the end of an era at Apple, the end of Osama bin Laden…2011 has been quite the year for interesting people. But that doesn’t automatically mean mine has been too (in the eyes of others, I mean).
But the best way to learn how to practically apply what you’ve been taught is just to do it. It may not be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but just trying gets you closer than you were before you tried, now doesn’t it?
So I’m giving it a try. Should I be able to pull this off, I’ll have six more posts before January 31 (quite the ambition considering GYC is less than a week away): Tragedy, Triumph, Travel, Testimony, Thanks, and Trajectory. And maybe by the end of this a better how to apply what you know will emerge. Or maybe I’ll just fall flat on my face.