Writing Memories

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I don’t consider myself a memoir kind of writer. I’ve read some extremely good memoirs, and I’ve always known that this particular style of writing wasn’t in my talent set, and I’m okay with that. However, up until recently, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that not being a memoir writer meant that there was no benefit in writing down a memory once in a while.

I started doing this recently as a request from my mother, who was collecting memories about my grandmother who passed away a few years ago. I’ve always had some very clear memories of my grandmother, but it hadn’t occurred to me that actually putting those moments into words would let me experience them in a different way.

Also, I realized that twenty years down the road when I can’t remember those moments quite as vividly, I’m going to be so thankful I took the time to write them down. So since then, I’ve been writing down little childhood moments. Some are huge, pivotal events, but mostly they’re just the quiet things that made my past magical, things that I would be devastated to lose.

I did this purely for myself, but I’m finding that it’s benefiting other areas of my writing as well. I’m realizing now more than ever how you don’t need to have a capital-E “Event” in a scene for that scene to be powerful. I’ve become more receptive to those little moments that are important to my characters and I’m dialing in to why they are so important, and I think that’s making my storytelling stronger.

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Also, since I spend so much time trying to get inside my characters’ minds, I hadn’t realized how liberating it is to just write from my own perspective. It frees me from wondering what’s a ‘realistic’ reaction and I can just focus on taking the emotions of the situation and translating them into words.

Does anyone else write down memories? Do you find it helpful?

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3 responses »

  1. I keep a personal journal that I /try/ to update every day, and a lot of little memories find their way into it. Some are big and exciting, like parties and holidays and trips, but a lot of the time, I find myself writing about the smaller things. And as you say–that’s how you become more receptive to how important the little moments are. I find that it helps me understand the significance of things too. I once wrote two pages about my new hairstyle and how much I liked it, and it made me realize that my hair represents my new-found self confidence. Which made me more aware of how my characters’ appearances must be representative of their own attitudes.

    I like what you say about writing from your own perspective and not having to worry about whether or not a reaction is realistic. I think that writing down memories and feelings and reactions can be incredibly helpful for exactly that–it gives you a database of sorts to draw upon when you need to write a character’s response. And the more resources we have, the better! 🙂

    • Nice! What you said about the hairstyle: that’s a really cool observation 🙂 And so totally true, even though I’ve never really thought about it before. *Cue Olivia’s daydream topic of the day*

      • Haha, glad to have fuelled you with some daydreaming material 😀 It’s always so good to share little tidbits between writers though. Gets the imagination moving.

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