Expressive Arts Carnival: Memoir

The activity for this months Expressive Arts Carnival is to:

Write your memoir using only six words and present it as an image.

I’ve been trying out different ideas for this activity for the last few weeks, and I’ve found it a useful tool in helping me to understand where I am in the moment.  Each day, I would think of six words which described my day, feelings or experiences, and put them into Wordle to see if I could generate a graphic of what was going on internally for me.  In some ways, this exercise is a link between my Polyvore sets, which  are a visual representation of my experiences; and this written blog.

Here are a couple that I’ve created over the last week or so…



I was going to submit one of these, but then I clarified with Paul whether the autobiography was to be descriptive words, or a sentence.  Strangely enough, he considered an autobiography to be (at least) a sentence **Please note: Paul doesn’t expect a sentence, there was a bit of miscommunication going on**.  As it was identified when I reached university that I was unable to tell a complete sentence from an aardvark, I didn’t see this as a huge stumbling block… incomplete sentences are my forte, although they tend to be  incoherent, rambling marathons; rather than anything pithy.  But grouping random words together with an ellipses thrown in for good luck, seemed doable.  Here’s the result:

The first half of the sentence describes how the expectations, needs and wants of others, defined me for so long that I seemed to get lost, and become almost like a puppet…  I did my undergraduate degree, not because I enjoyed the subject, but because I got good grades in it.  I got married because society expects a woman in her thirties to be married.  I stayed silent when I should have screamed, because I didn’t want to hurt or inconvenience others…  These are all indicators of my abusive past, and I’m still very much under their influence; therefore the words representing that past are so dominant.  But I’m now starting to redefine the distorted self image, even though that redefinition is feeling a little shaky and unsure; as can be seen by the smaller second half of the sentence.

After I completed this activity, and reflected back on it, I could see those old dysfunctions coming through.  As you can tell in my descriptive word exercises, I’m feeling quite disconnected from things at the moment, so use the more impersonal “self” instead of “myself”.  It’s also a much lighter colour – almost like I’m scared to come forward and be seen/heard.  I used the term “redefining” instead of “defining”, to indicate that it’s all a work in progress.

As with all of the Arts Carnival activities, this has helped me understand a little more about myself.  It also helped to establish a little bit of reflective connection in an otherwise disjointed month.  Even if you don’t submit anything for the Arts carnival, I’d encourage you to give this exercise a try, it’s been interesting seeing how the words changed over time – and noticing which ones have stayed the same.

Now playing: Sarah McLachlan – Angel
via FoxyTunes


21 thoughts on “Expressive Arts Carnival: Memoir

  1. Wow, I think that is an amazing six words. I love the positivity in it, that even though you were defined by others you are moving into a time of redefining yourself for yourself even if that feels less strong at the moment. Very hopeful!

  2. I looked at all three of your combinations, CG, and I saw something different than you described. It seems that you had words, but no structure. Once you referred to a structured environment for words, a complete thought came together for you. Considering your field, it makes sense to me that you would find clarity with structure.

    I think it’s all so amazing. congratulations!

    Good job, CG.

    Heartfelt wishes,


    • Hi Meredith,

      Thanks. You’re right, I usually do like structure, especially within my daily routine – this has more to do with safety than anything else. The written word however, is not my strong suit. I write our website content at work, and always pass it by the grammar police on staff before it goes live. So to get any structure in a sentence can be tough for me. My ability to write changes depending on which part of me is present, so it can get very confusing.

      Thanks again…
      Take care,

  3. I love what you ultimately chose as your memoir! And I like that you explained your use of the word “self”, rather than “myself”, because I can relate to that. I often write in a very similar manner…then I’ll read it, and wonder why I did that. I think you may have just explained it for me. It’s comes from feeling disconnected. Hmmm….why didn’t I think of that?

    Stepping out of your comfort zone to redefine yourself can make you feel a little “shaky” in the beginning, but it is so rewarding, and so freeing! Especially once you understand that you deserve a life free from dysfunction. I also like how you mentioned that it is a work in progress. I am finding that it continues to be a work in progress, which is a good thing because we’re meant to grow, and change so that we do not become stuck. One day, “Redefining Self” will become larger and bolder than “Defined by others”. That day will feel very empowering! I promise you. 🙂
    I’m still working on who I am, but I can very firmly say that I’m no longer being defined by others, and it’s a proud feeling because I worked so hard to get to this point.
    Good Luck, and know that I’m cheering you on! This was a great idea for the Expressive Arts Carnival. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Mareeya,

      Thanks… yes, the disconnection can show itself in lots of subtle ways. I didn’t spot it at first, but then wondered why I had chosen the words that I did.

      Change is difficult for almost everyone, but I think it’s especially difficult for survivors; we’re so used to the safety of routines and protecting ourselves in certain ways. But the ultimate reward is worth working through those difficulties.

      I agree that healing is a work in progress. It’s about learning new ways of being, and that takes time and practice. Even when we’ve moved on from therapy, there is still the skills to be practiced, reinforced and new ones learned. Life is a learning process, after all.

      I’m glad you’re no longer defined by others. That’s such a powerful statement about you and where you are!

      Thanks and take care,

  4. I love it! So powerful, and so true. I see you doing this – defining, or redefining, and even though its hard sometimes, it’s worth it. I’m so proud of you. 🙂

  5. These are all amazing 6 word memoirs! I am sorry I misunderstood your original question. No the submissions do not have to be complete sentences.

    That said, I think there is a lot more power that comes from the one that you made a sentence. There’s a flow to it, a beginning and end. A statement. Here’s hoping that in the process of redefining yourself, that font size keeps increasing!

    • Hi Paul,

      I’ve added a note to my post, so people don’t get the wrong idea about the submission. Although, I’m sort of glad I did the sentence, as it made me think. The word clouds were a product of my instinct at any one time, but the sentence was more reflective. I do think the word clouds fed into the sentence though.

      Take care,

  6. I’ve tried all kinds of art therapy, poetry and journaling at different times and have found all quite healing. I hope it is for you, too.

    I’m making the rounds to say goodbye to the blogsosphere as I have just put up my last official post after blogging for five years. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to meet brave bloggers like you, sharing in their journey. I’m sending you many blessings and best wishes as you continue on your path.

    • Hi Marj,

      Thanks for dropping by 🙂

      I think the more positive ways we can use to express ourselves, the better. It all helps to access different parts of our experiences, and reaches emotions that can’t be expressed in other ways.

      I wish you well for the future… Thank you for the legacy you leave – the carnival and the strength you showed in sharing your journey and thoughts.

      Take care,

  7. I think these are great exercises to do in general. Seeing your progression and where you went with each memoir was incredible. That last one is powerful and it makes a lot of sense. The last few words: now redefining self, is my favorite because it feels positive to me and it expresses the belief that you *can* redefine yourself,I think that is SO strong CG!

    • Hi tai,

      Thanks 🙂 I wasn’t going to do this activity, because I’ve been feeling so disconnected and negative; but I’m glad I did. I saw you did one too – are you going to submit it to the carnival?

      I do believe we can redefine ourselves… that’s what all the difficult healing work is all about!

      Take care,

  8. Pingback: Expressive Arts Carnival Activity No. 9 – Memoir « Kerro's Korner

  9. I am sorry you are having a hard time lately and feeling so disconnected. I think the exercise of coming up with the words each day is a great way to ground yourself a little and be more in touch with how you feel. I hope you start to feel a little more in touch with yourself soon.

    I think each of these are really powerful and expressive of how you feel and where you stand at the moment.

    I really think your entry is wonderful, its so powerful and full of hope. You did really well explaining it and breaking it down too, it made me really feel where you are at.

    “But I’m now starting to redefine the distorted self image, even though that redefinition is feeling a little shaky and unsure; as can be seen by the smaller second half of the sentence.”
    This sentence really caught my eye because I can relate to it so much. I am trying to redefine myself too and part of that is wanting to be more positive and confident but I feel so shaky trying, particularly where confidence is concerned – I keep waiting for it to back-fire and to get in trouble.

    You have expressed yourself so well here – well done and thank you for sharing!

    Take gentle care of you

    From Kylie

    • Hi Kylie,

      I saw your different options for the carnival on your blog, and they’re amazing 🙂

      I’m trying to make connections again… I spent most of last night down by the lake trying to let the water do it’s soothing thing. Grounding and connections are always a work in progress, some days are a little more difficult than others.

      Positivity and confidence come with practice and healing. It’s a step at a time, and from what I’ve seen on your blog, you’re doing really good things to help yourself with those goals. So please be gentle on yourself and give yourself the room to breathe and let it flow. Each time we’re shown that having those qualities doesn’t harm the system, we learn a little more. So keep on gently challenging those old ways… It sounds like you’re getting some really good positive people around you to help with the process 🙂

      Thanks and take care,

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