Laura Hedgecock

Aug 042015
 
Anticipation marked on a calender

Anticipation of the big event can make a great story.

In the aftermath of major events, anticipation is often overlooked. If we get around to preserving the story, we capture the event itself. Seldom do we go into the preparation, the excitement, and the looking forward to—or dreading—of the event.

Anticipation is part of the story too

Because anticipation–or dread–affects our memories, it’s often a part of the story—a part that will help readers understand us better (or the family member or ancestor we write about).

For instance, Gretchen Rubin points out in Psychology Today that anticipation is a major component of the happiness generated by an event. We anticipate, savor, express our gratitude, and look back and reflect. Likewise, in an aptly titled article, Anticipation Plays A Powerful Role In Human Memory, Brain Study Finds, Science Daily reports, “the simple act of anticipation may play a surprisingly important role in how fresh the memory of a tough experience remains.”

I’ve seen both sides of anticipation this summer. On the happy side, anticipation of meeting my son in Europe has carried me through the 90 days of missing him (not that I’m counting). Because his internship in the Netherlands is unpaid, he’ll need a loan to get him through his senior year of college. A condition—well the only condition we’ve actually discussed—of that loan is that he’ll travel with his mommy for two weeks at the end of his internship.

It’s probably not the most fiscally sound decision I’ve ever made, but as the flight day approaches, I’m giddy with excitement. I’ve obsessively planned our itinerary, taking over 700 ancestral events (births, baptisms, residence, deaths, and burials) into account in deciding what to see. I’ve booked cozy-looking affordable B&Bs, and calculated travel distances. I corresponded with friends I haven’t seen in 20 years and planned visits. I’m so excited that sometimes my feet don’t actually touch the ground.

Some anticipation is dread.

Stories of dread can matter as well.

As I helped my dear friend set up our church’s fellowship hall for her mother’s funeral reception, I saw that dread first-hand.

The event had, in one sense already transpired, but the final goodbyes were yet ahead. That dread expressed itself in the siblings’ painstaking efforts to make the goodbye meaningful. They bought orchids for each table and carefully re-potted each one. Mementos, collectibles, and photos were lovingly placed on the display table. Each item highlighted their mother’s personality and the importance of relationships and family to her.

Perhaps focusing on the smaller details gave them a respite from contemplating the big, heartbreakingly final, picture. But those of days drawing together, planning, and seeing to is a part of their family history. They matter because they illustrate the family dynamic.

Write about moments of anticipation.

These moments of anticipation are stories—stories often lost. They’re stories of how we cope and what makes our hearts sing. They’re stories of how our emotions are mixed, not just internally, but with family members.

Try writing about anticipation in your family’s life. These might include:

  • A child going away to college
  • A move
  • A trip
  • A wedding
  • A new baby on the way
  • Waiting for a diagnosis
  • Waiting for a doctor’s appointment after receiving lab results
  • Throwing a party
  • Waiting for a visitor to come
  • Frantically cleaning and cooking for family coming to visit

Your Turn

When has anticipation colored days, weeks, or months of your life?

Jul 292015
 
Selective reading of history -- words crossed out

Is there a selective reading of history in your family? How do you deal with it?

As southerners have debated whether the Confederate flag represents hate or heritage, several articles have addressed the idea of a “selective reading of history.” Which is, when you think about it, something families are really good at doing.

A selective reading of history isn’t quite a revision of what happened. It’s an intentional focus on some facts and a brushing-under-the-rug of other events. As storytellers, we play a role in selecting what’s told and what’s kept mum. Admittedly, sometimes the selective reading of history is appropriate. There’s a “truth” of the story that needs to come through loud and clear, unobscured by complicating details and the noise of side stories

However, other times, those of us recounting the family’s history slowly become aware of the crumbs lurking under the carpet. We feel uncomfortable as we sense them crunching under the family footfalls. Continue reading »

Jul 222015
 

pIRATE-lAURAOfficially, Talk Like a Pirate Day won’t come until September 19, but I’ve been saying “Arrrggghhhhh!” a lot this week.

Channel Changing

It’s bad enough that if I leave the room for more than two minutes, my husband finds an Iron Man or Transformers movie to watch for the eighty-fifth time this month. However, the real problem is the channels changing in my brain without my permission. Continue reading »

Jul 162015
 
A couple trying to remember somethings and not others

Understanding why we remember some things and not others might help facilitate recall.

Have you ever wondered why you remember some things but not others ? Have you ever wondered why some things come back to you seemingly out of the blue? You think to yourself, “That’s funny, I haven’t thought about that in years.”

Actually, it’s better than funny. The science behind how memory works is fascinating and cool.

Obviously, “How Memory Works” is a topic far beyond the scope of a single blog post. But it is fun to take a look at what scientists call episodic or autobiographical memories—the events of our pasts.

The memories we have and are able to recall are critical to how we think of ourselves. Researchers Martin A. Conway and Christophe Pleydell-Pearce explain, “autobiographical memory is of fundamental significance for the self, for emotions, and for the experience of personhood, that is the experience of enduring as an individual, in a culture, over time.” Continue reading »

Jul 092015
 
Cousin once removed by way of staple remover on family tree.

A cousin once removed isn’t what (or who) it sounds like it is.

Why was my cousin once removed? Maybe that’s why my family dispensed with the first cousin, second cousin, and once removed nomenclature when referring to cousins: They knew I’d ask a bunch of questions, most of which would begin with “Why…” Cousins were just “cousins.”

“Once removed” doesn’t sound anything like it means. Unlike its general use in the English vernacular, when it’s used to describe family relationships, removed simply means from a different generation. I now think of it as “more distant in age.” A first cousin once removed might be a first cousin of my parents’ generation or my children’s generation. (See Genealogy.com’s primer.) Continue reading »

Jul 022015
 
Hometown context - a graphic of houses along a river

Adding hometown context can help your stories come to life

Your hometown comes to represent much more than the place you grew up. It’s your version of your state and country.

When we write about family members, ancestors, or ourselves, it’s important to give readers a glimpse of that hometown context. It helps explain worldview, values, and traditions. It helps them understand the personalities involved in our stories.

For instance, my hometown still colors my perception and understanding of events, even though I’ve now lived away from South Carolina as long as I lived there. It’s part of me. Though I’ve lived in the mid-west for over twenty years, I still consider myself a southerner. Continue reading »

Jun 232015
 
Train track represents get back on track

Read how to get back on track if you’ve gotten side-tracked from your writing or storytelling project.

Read how to get back on track if you’ve allowed yourself to get sidetracked

Procrastination and distraction are two of my best talents. In fact, I’ve been exercising them quite a bit lately! Which makes it seem like a great time to write about how to get back on track.

Re-examine your motives, not just your goals.

Once you’ve let your discipline slip a little, getting back on track can seem like drudgery. Chances are that when you got behind, you were busy with other things. And those other things don’t just disappear when you decide to get back on track.

When it comes to writing and storytelling, passion is a key element of discipline. Looking only at your goals is only good for giving yourself a kick in the hind-quarters. It doesn’t invigorate the creative urge that got you started in the first place.

Look again at the things that made you want to write about your memories and share your family stories. Think of your audience. The things you want to preserve. They way that you want to preserve them.

Now look at your goals.

Were your goals unrealistic? Has life changed? Or, do you simply need a jump-start as well as a lot more chocolate to reward yourself?

Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure. If your goals seem realistic, do you have a plan on how you’re going to achieve them? For instance, if you’ve determined that you want to write about two memories or stories a week, have you figured out how that works into your week? Believe it or not, I’ve tried the “it will just happen” approach. It doesn’t work.

When you’re done beating yourself up, move on.

Sometimes we get so caught up in berating ourselves and regretting the time we’ve lost, we have trouble moving on. At least I do. You may be a lot less neurotic than that. Figure out how you got off track, if you must, but only to learn from it and take evasive action next time you see that particular perfect storm on the horizon.

Break up the writers’ block.

Nothing weakens resolve like writer’s block. It’s a pain in the brain, as well as other places. Some of the most common “cures” are using prompts (Hmmm…. Who has a good book with prompts, and a blog to boot?), writing exercises, and reading others’ stories.

Trick your imagination.

Drew Chial, a blogger I really enjoy reading, has a new idea on how to trick your imagination into focusing on the things you want it to focus on. I won’t steal his imaginary thunder. Read his How to Keep Intrusive Thoughts from Ruining Your Writing and see if his magic works for you.

Banish your inner perfectionist.

If you wait for the perfect inspiration to come at the perfect time, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. Everything doesn’t have to be inspired. Neither does it need to be worthy of literary accolades.

Write. You can edit later, but get the words flowing on to the page. Lock that perfectionist urge way in a box and just let words find their way to the page. (Yes, you can get it out and play with it later, but not now.)

Break a rule or two

We learn rules so that we can better understand when and why to break them. Give yourself permission to do the opposite of what all the advice columnists say. Perhaps you need to forget about your audience and get in touch with your emotions to get back on track. Perhaps you need a break. Try something different and see if there was a rule that was holding you back.

Read How Writers Get Back on Track

Chuck Wendig’s 25 Ways To Get Your Creative Groove Back As A Writer is meant for professional writers, but makes a lot of good points that almost anyone can benefit from. Plus, just reading his style will make you want to dive for the keyboard and start pounding away.

Brainstorm

It’s my favorite, so it was a given that I’d round out the list with it. Brainstorming stimulates creativity an helps develop ideas. If you haven’t tried it, you should. If you have, get back on track by brainstorming your way there.

Your Turn:

What’s your best tip for getting back on track? What works best for you?

Jun 182015
 
crest share surname history

A crest isn’t the only way to share surname history. Share stories too!

Aside from the “cock” part and the inherent playground emotional trauma that comes with bearing it, the Hedgecock name has a lot to be proud of.

Since I only adopted that name after my marriage, I confess to letting a giggle of two escape at some of the Hedgecock name jokes. “Bush-chicken,” for instance. My husband and sons fail to see the humor. Continue reading »

Jun 112015
 
Happy Father's Day Story

Your Father’s Day Story might not fit the card shop mold, which is all the more reason to tell it.

Father’s Day isn’t always about the idyllic childhood or the perfect nuclear family.

It’s not always a “Hallmark” holiday. A day the lucky among us (including me) celebrate and remember the strong men that were positive influences in our lives. We give the ubiquitous tie or black socks to replace the ones that the washing machine ate to the men we love. We barbecue dad’s favorite meat on the grill. And yes, we spend time at the card shop deliberating. Continue reading »

Jun 042015
 
Foot in mouth

Big Foot in mouth (again).

Have you ever said something and as soon as it left your lips, you would have given your eye-tooth (I don’t actually know which one that is) to have your words back again? Failing that, you’d like to dissolve into the woodwork and never be seen again?

I have. On more than one occasion.

We’ve all had moments when we’ve had to try to bandage our dignity as we extract our foot from our mouths. Share them!  I’ll go first.  (You’re next, though. Misery loves company.)  Continue reading »