The Truth About Memoirs – 7 Simple Ways To Find Those Lost Moments

The Truth About Memoirs – 7 Simple Ways To Find Those Lost Moments

Writers Write is a writing resource. This post is the fourth in our series, The Truth About Memoirs, and in it we suggest seven ways to find those lost moments.

Continuing my series of posts on The Truth About Memoirs, I want to talk about ways in which you can find lost memories this week.

‘Happiness is hard to recall. It’s just a glow.’  ~Frank McCourt

‘There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery.’ ~Dante Alighieri

Sometimes our memories are as clear and vivid as tropical fish in a brightly lit aquarium. Other times, they’re like buried treasure in the deepest reaches of the ocean.  ‘I can’t remember what I had for breakfast on Tuesday,’ you say. ‘How can I remember the name of my second grade teacher?’

I don’t think we ever forget anything. It’s all still there. We just need something tangible to make the connection again. And even if you don’t find it – you will remember that ‘glow’ and that’s what you’re really doing in a memoir: stalking lost emotion.

7 Simple Ways To Find Those Lost Moments

Try these seven exercises to help you turn back time:

  1. Smile for the camera!  These are a great way to jog your memory. Go through old photo albums or home videos. If you’re a digital baby, scroll through old timelines on Facebook.
  2. The time of your life. Make a list of the songs or movies you loved during the year/s you wish to reflect on. What song was playing the day you met your partner?  If your memory is that bad, do an online search for the top songs and movies of that year!
  3. A first time for everything. Do 10-minute writing exercises, starting with the words, ‘The first time I ever …’. It could be about the first time you kissed, drove a car, or bake a cake. It could be about the first time you met your biological father, went on a hike.
  4. Retro calendar. Take a sheet of paper and divide into columns. In each column, write down chronological year numbers – say, 1998, 1999, 2000. Then create bullet points for any milestones or even setbacks for that year. Example: got my MBA, moved to Perth, had my first nose job. (If you are stuck, maybe look back at old diaries).
  5. From archived to alive. Go through old emails from friends if you can find them, or read over letters you’ve kept. You could also find invitations, menus, or other mementoes that may help you remember good – and maybe not so good – times.
  6. Free association.  On one side of a page write down common everyday words. On the other, write down the first idea, word, or fragment that comes to you. For example, maybe ‘dog’ sparks a memory about Chips, the rescue mongrel you loved. Or ‘toaster’ reminds you of the time your gran almost burned down the kitchen.
  7. Bake some biscuits. Try to write down your favourite recipes from memory. Maybe your grandmother gave it to you, or a good friend. And then try to follow the recipe – and see how it comes out.

These are just a few ways you can trick yourself into remembering. They’ll get you started. Once you start, you’ll find that more and more memories will come flooding back – so keep a notebook handy.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a memoir, look into our Secrets of a Memoirist course.

by Anthony Ehlers

Posted on: 9th April 2015

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