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4 Tips For Making and Using a Core Memory Lists to Write More Efficiently

What is a Core Memory List?

The Core Memory List is a list of the crucial relationships and events which have shaped your life. It contains just ten or fewer items. Use it to write more efficiently.

This is because Core Memory Lists are about the relationships and events which, had they not occurred, your life (or your mother’s or father’s, etc.) would have taken a different turn, and you would absolutely have become a different person from the one you are.

1) If life teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t have inexhaustible energy and time.

It is perfectly possible to run out of both before we get all our stories written. With this in mind, because you have compiled the Core Memory List, you can identify your most important lifestories–the ones about the prime relationships and events of your life–and concentrate on writing these first. These few core memories serve well as the backbone of your longer lifewriting project. The peripheral stories can be dealt with later-as time and energy permit.

2) What kind of items will appear on the Core Memory List?

The answer is: only big items. Here are a few Core Memory List possibilities:

  • A major illness or a death in the family.
  • The arrival of a sibling.
  • The community-the town or neighborhood, the ethnic, religious or social group you grew up in.
  • A significant fire, flood, car accident or historic even
  • A formative relationship with an older person or a peer.
  • A failure or success at school-scholarships, sports or arts awards, a decision to go or not go to the university, conflict with a teache
  • Having to leave school for work.
  • Boyfriends/girlfriends, deciding to marry or to not marry.
  • Marriage/relationships.
  • Children and family life.
  • Career choices and changes, successes, failures.
  • Religious and spiritual quests and experiences.

3) Limit your Core Memory List to ten items.

Limiting yourself to ten–admittedly an arbitrary number–forces you to evaluate and select the most significant material to start writing about. In short, to write more efficiently.

The items on your Core Memory List are almost never splashy events: not the time when you met someone famous briefly and superficially (e.g. Elvis Presley kissed you goodbye on the cheek when you both happened to be at the same airport in 1965!) but something essential like deciding (or deciding not) to move away or marry, or like winning a scholarship and going to the university instead of going to work at the mill (or vice versa).

4) Compiling a Core Memory List will make it easier for you to organize your material early in the writing process and assure that you write your most important stories first.

By identifying core influences in your life, you can focus on them quickly in your lifewriting. In this way, you will develop a body of stories that depict the person you are and have been. If your time and energy is limited, you will not squander either one on writing about secondary events in your life. Perhaps you and your friends were impressed, at the time, that Elvis kissed you at the airport, but how has this influenced your development as a person?

If you have the interest and the time, later on, you can write about the secondary events in your life. Otherwise, you may find yourself having “run out of wind” on the unessential stories before you commit your core stories to paper. For now, it is important to write more efficiently.

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