Tag Archives: memoir writing

Memoir Writing: A process of discovery

Love is the Thing

There are many underpinnings that lend support to the structure of my story. Every room in the house that I have been building through my storytelling is filled with love.

The Gift of Play

By the time I reached my mid-30s and gave birth as a surrogate mother I had forgotten much of what I knew about play. Thank goodness my dreams persisted and helped me to understand how important play is to my well-being.


I need look no further than my dreams to understand that in my lifetime I will only touch the surface of what is possible. There is so much more to experience.


My journals are a testament to the fact that I love to write story and create, making something from nothing. I write morning pages, haiku, and respond to writing prompts to get me going. I write down words that I want to look up later, my dreams and what I notice about the setting, characters, and actions that visit me as I sleep or during my waking hours as daydreams or visualizations. My journals are also visual and contain just about everything in my life–paintings, drawings, lists, projects, calendar, planning, my intentions, what I do, what I am most passionate about in this moment and the next.

I write everyday in my journals or if for some reason I am not carrying my journal with me, I will find a napkin, torn off bit of paper, even my hand, a fallen leaf, or a stone has acted as a blank slate for my writing.

Because I’ve kept my journals over many years I can explore my past dreams and experiences through the threads of my writing. The patterns that I see are notes that have consistently helped me to understand my life experiences in greater depth. These patterns come with an attitude that my life experiences are not done with me and will continue to inform my life for as long as I care to pay attention.

Archetypal Forces

Without conscious awareness there are energies that can be dangerous.


My life experience and reflections have led me to an understanding that I am happiest when I accept what life offers from one moment to the next. When I am faced with things I would rather not do, when fears arise, when challenges emerge, I remember that I have the tools I need to play and create something new from the muck of life and from the wellsprings. Choosing ways to play in the everyday moments of my life continues to be transformational as I continue my daily practice.

Patterns Broken

I can and did break old patterns no longer needed. I continue to make adjustments. Each time there is a deepening and integration that takes place.

The One Thing

Each of us carry our thing into life circumstances. Whatever our family deal is climbs on for a ride and comes along. So for me, what I carry into all of my relationships is ‘I have to have a voice and freedom to play with all of it.’


Staying with what I know and am comfortable with is not always the best choice.

Are You Ready to Deepen your Life Experience?

Mary Alice Long, PhD is a play-based, depth-oriented coach, writer, and artist who practices and teaches the ‘Art of Playing in the Everyday’.

Record a Life: New Insights about Bodily Symptoms + Letting Go + Integration

While enjoying a lunch break with Michael I began to think about my morning…

My day began with writing in my journal, stretching in my studio, and broadcasting. I haven’t been feeling well going on 6 weeks. My lack of energy and over all ache has led me to slow down, hibernate, retreat. I have been handwriting entries in my journal and realized only in the last few days that developing a relationship with my bodily symptoms will help me to understand their language.

My lack of energy and general disease in my body has slowed me down, helped me let go and schedule time off from some of my responsibilities. I am exploring new options for a healthier living, taking afternoon naps, and drinking lots of water. I am focusing on one thing at a time which is very unusual for me given my love of diversity. Tending to the soulfulness of everyday things is becoming rooted in a spiritual practice that I can’t define but identity as central to my life and life’s view.

Just before lunch after taking my golden retriever puppy, Will, for a bit of outdoors play, I made my way to my upstairs studio to begin the process of clearing out my file cabinet that has remained untouched since settling into our new home 4 years ago. I set my timer for 30 minutes and began to go through the files one by one in one of the large drawers. When the timer went off with the familiar ‘Playtime’ I could hardly move my locked knees. I stretched, moved around my studio, and stumbled my way downstairs to prepare lunch for Michael and I.

Lila, our Bassett Hound, wanted to go outside and Will, who is now over 6 months old, settled in under the dining room table. With each spoonful of soup, I began to think about each piece of paper that I had placed in the recycling bag. I began to associate each dated file, resource, and entry with my son, Will, and the age he would have been during that year. One of the first files I found (remembering its now 2018) was dated 1998. Will would have been 11-years-old. With my recognition came tears and stiff, almost immovable muscles across my shoulders and back. I realized that I have been holding onto these files and other things in my studio. Could keeping these items over the years be a way of holding onto what was lost to me over the years?

For almost 30 years I was in the dark as to my son’s life. It was only last year that I heard from him by phone, was able to meet him in-person, and then less than a month later learned of his death due to progressive cancer.

Recently I began to transfer some of my memoir’s handwritten journal entries in to a computer file. I have started to transfer my newest journal entries. I have high hopes that I will be able to sort through the many other entries I have in multiple journals related to my memoir story. It all seems very chaotic. It helps me to remember that I carried around similar feelings when I was working on my doctoral dissertation, Surrogate Mother: A Phenomenological Naming of Who She Is–Personal Story, Mythology, and Dance. Eventually I was able to put the puzzle pieces in place to create a complete picture of story, myth, and dance.

As I go through my existing memoir journal entries and write reflexively in my daily journal I find myself dragged into the underworld where I am asked to see both the dark and the light, the tension of the opposites. I find my Young, Mother, and Aging Self there.

With my new insights, I am moving forward knowing that it will be necessary for me to continue to breathe into my bodily symptoms and find ways to come to a visceral understanding of the cycles of change and my part in them.

For you, the reader, it is my greatest hope that through the sharing of my story you will find your own unique ways to find soulfulness in the everyday of your life (which is also the soul of the world). More than ever it is important for me to understand that change happens in the everyday moments of our lives.

An almost imperceptible accumulation of daily change ~ Jane R. Pretat

Don’t Hold Back, Write About What You Feel

Each moment brings an opportunity for play so why not playfully write in those moments that string into minutes.. and then hours…I had a journal with a key to lock my journal as a girl and I loved putting pen to paper and writing even then. As a child, I got the message that my brothers and sister were not suppose to make a sound at home so as not to disturb my dad. As a result I didn’t feel heard and listened to…writing gives me the opportunity to express myself. One of many art-forms I use to play and create with..

Louise DeSalvo’s quote, Repressing our Stories Can Harm Us, sent me to Google to look up repression, to revisit the word and attitude,

Google says, repression is ‘the action of subduing someone or something by force’. Re-visiting assumptions is valuable…I’m taken by the word ‘force’ in this definition of repression.

  • Am I using force to hold back my stories?
  • Do I forcefully stop myself and others from sharing theirs?

Do you believe in writing as a way of healing?  I sure do..

Writing has been instrumental in helping me to integrate my dreams and experiences in a way that transformed my life. In my 30s and during the time that I offered to be a surrogate mother for my psychotherapist I often said, ‘oh, whatever you want‘ when asked what I preferred in any given situation. I most often placated the other person to avoid conflict or criticism.

I had very little sense of boundaries and attracted people into my life who were more than willing to take advantage of my leanings. (my psychotherapist being one of the willing takers).

The woman I was at the time of my surrogate pregnancy and that same woman today in my 60s are very different.

When I write and speak about learning ‘the art of playing in the everyday’ its more about the approach and practice than it is about the form play takes. When I or anyone else brings a child’s wonder and curiosity to any experience play happens. Writing about my dreams and experience has brought a life filled with playfulness and creativity. Laughter and joy.

After writing in my journals and continuously focusing on the art of writing for many years,  I have found that I am beginning to write and not hold back.

As Betsy Wetzig, my friend and collaborator, wrote me after witnessing one of my memoir project performances and reading my writing over a period of time:

I now have a deeper understanding of how playfulness can be a medium of understanding…. for one thing it can help us deal with the “scaries” as it lets us interact with ourselves.

There is value in writing about our personal experiences and what we feel. what is real.

  • Don’t hold back.
  • Be open.
  • Be courageous.




A Love Affair with Writing and Creativity (Not Knowing What You are Doing)

Sometimes it just drops in * active possibility * writer’s advantage

As I was sitting on the couch this morning writing I began to wonder,

What does it feel like to fall in love?

I continued to write in my journal and realized that I am in love. In love with writing. In love with my playful, creative journey.

My own experience is that falling in love has the quality of dropping down Alice’s rabbit hole.

Besides my own experience of falling in love, I have witnessed many of my friends become suddenly and seemingly out of control * acting crazy * not knowing what they are doing.

When you are falling in love your beloved is unique to YOU.

When you are falling in love adversity brings you closer. You get all fired up! You want to be together all the time and you can do this because you are energized and motivated to be together.

When you are falling in love there is an attraction * commitment * an investment that can seem like an obsession like no other.

Becoming aware that I am falling in love with writing and my own playful, creative process is no small matter. My state, this crazy state of being in love, means that I am open to dropping down into the depths where, it is possible, I may remain without opportunity for recovery. That is, if I enter into my love affair and lose myself entirely to that liminal space.

Right now I am available and open to a commitment. I’m willing to invest my time because I am committed to creating new pieces of writing. There is an attraction, a calling that I can’t dismiss.  Writing and creating new projects energizes me when I am tending what is unique only to me as the writer and creator.

I have been writing personal narrative and my memoir since the 90s. There is a certain amount of obsessiveness related to writing about my personal experience and story. Thoughts of the son I relinquished in 1987 have preoccupied me over many years. I wrote my doctoral thesis on surrogacy and also created a selchie dance and video which shares my personal story through the lens of the selchie (seal-woman) myth. As I continued to write I began to write a more detailed version of my story in 2004 in the form of a memoir which now is an edited draft manuscript. My memoir is now part of a larger memoir project and I am working toward completing my story this year. I am performing my story and being transformed through the writing and performative process.

My writing and core life story are coming around full circle. The son I relinquished almost 30 years ago has contacted me. He now knows his story and my story is being flushed out in ways that are magical, healing, and transformative. There is magic in new beginnings that happen to us moment-to-moment. When anyone falls in love with their creative process, their muse, their beloved, it is certain to be a crazy time of upheaval and uncertainty and also a time of meaning, and purpose, and transformation.

Some writing * creative prompts for you to play with:

  • I want to spend all my time ________________.
  • I feel renewed and highly motivated when I…
  • I am committed to…
  • I am open to ….

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