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November 4 Activity: Don’t Trust Your Memory

November 4: Don’t trust your memory; go to the sources.

There’s no way around it: your memory—and mine—is fallible, unfortunately sometimes false, and too often flattering as it “remembers” events.

To counter this, for November is Memoir Writing Month, gather materials that will support your grasp of the past. There’s nothing like a document created at the time of an event to anchor you in reality.

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Going to the sources is pre-writing

The following is not a writing task per se.  It is what we call a pre-writing exercise. (Pre-writing can be done entirely before writing, as the name indicates, or it can be undertaken as you write. It is then pre-writing for another stage of the memoir.)

Action Step

Find your memorabilia (diplomas, newspaper articles, certificates, letters, journals, photographs) from the time about which you are writing a memoir. Study themand add all memories they give rise to to your Memory List. Your Memory List needs more items than you may imagine right now. Prepare to jot down  at least 200 memories.

I have benefited from placing photos and other visual memorabilia before me as I write memoir. I find that this both stimulates the recall of data as well as provides me with access to feelings.

Don’t trust your memory!

Come back tomorrow for another installment of November is Memoir Writing Month suggestions to improve your writing.


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