A Figurative Journey

A Figurative Journey

Featured Image: ‘Milestones’.

I’ve recently embarked on a figurative journey. For five or six weeks I’ve taken part in a memoir writing course. Self-improvement Wednesdays embrace my six ‘E’s of learning: encouragement, enrichment, enhancement, enlargement, embellishment, enlightenment. Could this be cerebral? I have to ask myself what I learned. The best way to check is to write it down. Test your memory by reflection and revision. How much is imprinted? Reinforcement can be powerful. Planning has been emphasised at every turn. I’m reminded of bite size digestible chunks of learning known as modules in another life. Learning outcomes is a time worn cliché borrowed from the competency based training purview. My erudite academic colleagues call these attributes. It may be playing pedantic semantics. In the cognitive domain of learning we have knowledge, understanding, comprehension, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Let’s see how far we have climbed. In the end we go back to the beginning: yet one more recidivist chestnut.

In the beginning I learned that writing begins with imitation. I like that. Imitate until it becomes your own voice. Write what you know. Write what you read. Use a dramatic sense of language. Add variety. Is this a licence to plunder, plagiarize and purloin? Why indeed reinvent a written wheel. Others have claimed that you must read at least one hundred pages in order to write one. I’ll subscribe to that. Write an opening which snares. Write short sentences and short words. Writing is about who, what, where and when. A journal is a subset of memoir. The connection is at the beginning: emphasis at the end. Another mantra states writing is about clarity, precision and elegance. I may have trouble with the third edict. Use quotations sparingly. I’ll try to remember.

Eulogies are speeches of praise. Eulogy is a world of character. Focus on words, deeds and reputation with a congruence of words. ‘Smart as a hatful of rats’ is very good. It’s vital to focus on character: we are what we say, we are what we do and we are what others say about us. The structure will have a beginning, middle and an end. There will be skilful choice placing of key words with balance and closure. I had my first introduction to sober colons. The appositional colon links examples to the collective: it anticipates a list. The causal colon replaces because in the middle of a sentence. The semi-colon takes out both ‘and’ and ‘but’ in a sentence. Both sharpen the dialogue.

Journeys are actual and figurative. A literal journey may carry a figurative force. Characterize who and the place. Use quotations sparingly. I despair. How can I write what I read? Cheating and padding are more difficult. Unless journeys are serendipitous they will have a PLAN. The journey has a goal: consequence of a conscious plan. The plan will include where, when, who, what and why. There will be a ‘motif’: a pattern of language with words in sequence. Journey narratives embrace: modes of transport, reason or reasons, duration, time element (short or long), unexpected incidents, destination, ‘sense of place’, ambience and purpose. Phew! I think I understand.

You don’t write a paragraph; you make a paragraph. No wonder the engineers are doing so well. The PLAN will start with a topic sentence including subject and focus. Supportive detail in the middle links to a conclusion with cohesive key words: check for topic, focus and ending. I wonder of this works?

Write down a skeleton plan. Lexical chains are sets of words linked by meaning: linked words. They create cohesiveness and make the prose hang together. Lexical chains in boxes are very good for writing.

Journals can be daily or weekly accounts within narrow timeframes. There is immediacy and accuracy: clarity, precision and elegance. Eulogies are appraisals of life: praise, celebration and thanks. Journeys can be literal or figurative. A literal journey is a factual account. A figurative journey will include who, what, why, where and when. It is a repository for ideas with portals such as food, meals, seasonal time, doors and windows. It can be spiritual or transitional, may lie within a literal journey and stimulate recall. Rising action moves to a greater significance as exemplified by Shakespeare. Always start a new major topic with a new paragraph.

As instructed I have just ‘Googled’ Leda and the Swan by W. B. Yeats. How sensuous is that. What’s Agamemnon doing there? I’ve read an analysis of The Second Coming by the same author. It’s about the emotional element and the symbols that drive the emotional element. This will take me some time.

We consider the ending at the end: pure logic. Although advised not to I will finish with a quotation:

‘When we have passed a certain age, the soul of the child that we were, and the soul of the dead from whom we spring, come and bestow upon us in handfuls their treasures and their calamities’.

La Prisionnere by Marcel Proust, translated by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff.

Actually I have never read Proust; this is the first sentence in The Cardboard Crown by Martin Boyd. I thought I’d better own up: I’d be found out anyway. Perhaps Lord Victor Rothschild III was right: it’s all about burnishing our residual grey matter.