Our first Zuihitsu Saijiki class.
I held my first Zuihitsu Saijiki Memoir Writing class in Whitstable last week. It was such a lovely evening. I loved meeting all the writers and hearing their different reasons for coming along. There was a very peaceful atmosphere and, as always, unexpected treasure was unearthed.
As the writers entered the lovely Umbrella Cafe, accompanied by delicate Japanese music, I gave them a handout of helpful information. They had a look and made themselves comfortable. We introduced ourselves, followed by a short, guided meditation. It was time to start writing then and I gave a writing prompt of emerging. This was inspired by the Japanese microseason that was coming to an end that day: Caterpillars Become Butterflies. It also brought in the Saijiki element of writing inspired by nature. Writers in my classes are always free to ignore my prompts as they may have their own ideas but this time everyone went with emerging.
Zuihitsu is very freeing. I’ve been asked what the difference is between these classes and my regular memoir classes and I think the main one is that we are not thinking about the audience, or the end product. Structure does not concern us. We are writing to explore. Zuihitsu can be, “a stream of consciousness vignette,” says the poet Ishwara Masakira.
After we had spent about 25 minutes writing, I asked the writers to share how they’d found the experience. Some spoke of what they had written about too but there was no pressure to share as memoir writing can be extremely personal.
“It was lovely to be uninterrupted, unstructured. Very relaxing. I doodled and some words found their way into my drawing.”
“I wrote my first haiku since primary school.”
“A story about a little boy wanting to be a girl came from nowhere.”
“I wrote a haiku, added some colour and a story about a treasure chest came out. So I guess that’s what emerged!”
“I wasn’t inspired at first, then I sat and thought about the emerging birds of spring, how I have seen them gathering moss for their nests and visiting my bird bath. Already I can see that I want to make more time for meditating and for writing.”
“I wrote something philosophical on the theme of emerging, about the caterpillar, how it has a direction and how life takes us off in different directions, whether we want to go or not.”
“I couldn’t remember why I was here and what I wanted to write about. Emerging led me to thinking of destiny, so I started asking questions about that. A memory came to me, of an old, beloved garden, and of watching a butterfly on a wheelie bin one birthday. There was some buddlea nearby. Which part of my life is the wheely bin and which is the buddlea?”
Then we had a little break and some chocolate cake, before starting again. The writers were free to continue with what they’d already started, or to write from a new prompt. A new Japanese microseason was starting the next day. Its title was Sparrows Start To Nest, so I gave the word nest.
Afterwards the writers shared their thoughts and those that wanted to, their writing. One writer was keen to share and wrote about how their mother’s home had been the nest and a place for siblings to meet. Since she has died, the siblings are nestless and connections have been lost. It was a poignant, heartfelt piece and everyone was very touched.
Other feedback was:
“I’ve been thinking rather than writing. It’s nice to have the space to do that.”
“I continued with my story about the treasure chest. Who knows where that will go?”
“I wrote two haikus, one about a house and one about an actual nest.”
“I wrote about unexpected offspring in the nest. How parenting can be challenging and how, despite this, most parents wouldn’t change a thing.”
“I wondered again why I was here and what I wanted to write about but then I just started.”
“I did a lovely drawing of a nest. I added words. It was very therapeutic.”
“I thought a tumour that had appeared, between the lung and the spine, nest-like.”
“I thought about how I’d like to fly the nest.”
“You got me memoiring.”
It’s always exciting and enlightening to me how one word can send people off in so many directions, how it excavates new stories, old memories, unpredictable trains of thought and new paths of creativity. As always I was moved by the atmosphere of intimacy that memoirists create together. It’s wonderful to witness and be a part of. Thank you to all the writers for coming along to my first Zuihitsu Saijiki Memoir Writing class. I can’t wait until next time!
Our next class is on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 7.30pm until 9pm in the Umbrella Cafe, Whitstable Umbrella Centre. The class costs £12 and booking is essential. I initally thought there would be 12 places available but on reflection after this first class I have decided that 10 is the maximum. Please do also let me know if you have said you are coming but are not able to attend so that I can offer your space to someone else. And crucially, so that I know how much cake to buy…
Until next time. Yours, in memoiring, Marnie