Try This! - Write from Something Old

From Amy Ludwig VanDerwater:

I love old things.  I shop in secondhand stories for clothes, dishes, and stories, enjoy smelling old books, deeply appreciate older people, and am fascinated by the past and the passage of time.

When I'm not sure what to write, sometimes I write from something old. It might be an object, or it might be a story someone has told me.  I like holding old things and wondering about them, trying to learn what they know and remember.

Anyone can do this.  Try looking around for something old.  You can look outside or inside, and the thing you find doesn't have to be fifty years old, even just a bit older than you will do.  

Now, think about this old thing you have found and wonder about it. You might draw it and try to understand what you can learn from it. Explore your thinking about this thing, about time, about change, about anything you wish.  See if you can surprise yourself with a new idea.  The world - both now and then - is yours to discover.

Ask older people you know to tell you stories.  Write these down too.

Below you can see the album full of letters that my Grandpa Norman Dreyer wrote to my Grandma Florence Dreyer during WWII, when he was in the Navy.  Then you can read my notebook pages.  You will notice that I am trying to make sense of this album, hoping to understand life a little bit more from some ink on paper, both older than I am.

I feel different having written these two notebook pages, somehow closer to this kind man who died when I was only two.

 Click to Enlarge this Photograph

Click to Enlarge these Notebook Pages

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is author of FOREST HAS A SONG and five forthcoming books for young readers.  She blogs at The Poem Farm - here at Sharing Our Notebooks.  You can follow her on Twitter at @amylvpoemfarm.

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  1. Amy, I like the angle you are coming from in your collection of items and writing. Your thoughts made me think about my own grandmothers and mother. I have saved some cards my Mom sent us throughout the years and always love the way people from the past wrote so beautifully and eloquently of love and family. I miss that slowing down pace when writing in script was valued.

  2. Amy,

    This is a great exercise and a great gift to you. It keeps giving you a chance to know your grandpa, to understand his deep love for his wife, a soldier's experience, etc. I have tears flowing, just reading your entry.