Writing about Your Life: Another Way to Skin a Cat

journal keeper
journal keeper (Photo credit: normanack)

In 1972, after our third and last child was born, we moved from a small frame house in Washington, D.C., into a gigantic frame house farther toward the edge of town. It was the house of my dreams, with seven bedrooms… , a cozy kitchen, and a front window that looked out onto a 1950’s-era neighborhood full of big trees and little children sucking popsicles as they whizzed down the street on their bicycles. As I stood in the front hall and mentally plugged in the Christmas tree, I knew I could spend the rest of my life there. What I didn’t know was that “the rest of my life” was about to end.

     When I picked up Phyllis Theroux’s memoir, The Journal Keeper, I was hooked! I wanted to know more about that seven bedroom house of her dreams. I wanted to look out that front window and peer down that tree-lined street and see little kids slurping popsicles while riding their bikes. Although I never enjoyed riding a bicycle, for a moment I sat on the seat and whizzed down the street with the other kids. I was caught up in the moment and wanted more.

      I experienced Phyllis’ desire to stay in that moment forever. And then it happened…The writer threw a curve ball. She wrote one sentence which utterly changed the mood. Something unexpected happened and I wanted to know the details. What could happen in my warm, cozy house? Yes, by this time, her house had become mine. I had to find out what happened to disappoint the writer.  And so I read on, my appetite now awakened.

     Describing a scene which pulls the reader into her story, then shifting the mood through a contrasting statement is one of the magical techniques Phyllis Theroux uses at the beginning of her memoir. I was absolutely hooked and couldn’t wait to follow her journey. And I was not disappointed. Theroux shares her innermost feelings in her memoir, which contains glimpses into her day-to-day life. It is set up like a journal, with events capturing the writer’s attention on a particular day. For those of you who have faithfully kept journal entries over the years and were afraid you didn’t have the skills to transpose them into a long narrative, this memoir serves as an alternative model.

     I’m learning that “there’s more than one way to skin a cat!” Yeah, I know that’s a pretty overworked expression, but in some cases, it’s the best way to describe options. So if you were thinking that writing a book about your life was outside your comfort zone, then stay inside. The fire is lit just for you! The best way to learn a craft, as I mentioned before, is to read what others have written. It’s your time to share what God has done for you! Somebody needs to hear your story.


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