I’ve been working on my list of memories as the basis for writing a memoir and, I have to tell you, it’s like standing under a waterfall as the memories rush over me. Once I started jotting things down, the floodgates opened up. I’m up to about 65 memories and have started carrying a small notebook with me because they pop up all the time now. I’ll be listening to a song, or looking at a picture and “BAM”, a memory will emerge.
This Memory List is the first step in preparing to write your memoir. A memoir isn’t simply the chronological listing of your life from birth to the present. A memoir can be one story centered around a significant event in your life or it can be a combination of several stories based around a common theme. For example, if you grew up on a farm, you might want to tell a story based on what farm life was like to show how it compares to present times. You could tell how you had to get up early every morning to do chores; how you helped with the gardening and canning; how you learned to swim in a dugout or how much fun you had sledding down a hill near your farm. These snippets from the past can be the starting point of many pages of a story.
One memory that came to me was the time I coaxed our new puppy to follow me to school. It was a bit like “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, actually. I was about 8 years old at the time. My walk to school was probably a mile, maybe more, each way. We had just gotten a new puppy and I was eager to show her off so I coerced her into following me one morning. I knew all of my classmates would love her and imagined the feeling of being the center of attention. You see, I was a shy child and, we had moved around a lot so I was always the “new kid” – you know – the one everyone whispers about behind her back? My new puppy was going to be my ticket to finally being one of the popular kids. I couldn’t wait! To make a long story short, my teacher saw the puppy running around the playground and when she asked “Who does this puppy belong to?” I proudly stepped forward and said, “She’s mine!”
“That’s nice”, she replied. “Now I want you to take her home. And be quick about it! Puppies don’t belong at school.”
I was shocked, crushed, and embarrassed, all at the same time. Plus, I was faced with the long walk home and back again. To make things worse, I was going to miss most of my morning classes and end up with homework. I think I cried all the way home. But I learned something that day that has stayed with me – think things through before you do them – and it’s served me well. Oh, those life lessons we learn as children!
I’m sure my grandchildren will be delighted to hear that story – to realize that I was once a child just like them – and maybe it will help to teach them to think before they act. They’ll probably have to go through their own experiences to learn that but one never knows.
I highly encourage everyone to make a list of memories, even if only as an interesting pass-time. You’ll be amazed what comes bubbling up from your subconscious. Some of these recollections will make you smile, while others might make you feel sad, but you’ll soon realize how they all form the tapestry of YOUR unique life so far.
“We are all the pieces of what we remember.” Cassandra Clare
If you’d like to learn more about writing your own memoirs, I’ll be facilitating a 6-week workshop this Fall in Estevan, Saskatchewan. I also hope to make it into an online workshop as well. Please take a moment and reply back to me if you’re interested in either one and I’d also love to hear about one of your favorite memories that comes up for you! You can also get my “7 Reasons to Write Your Memoir” and weekly emails to help you get started. (the sign-up form is below).
My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org