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Instead of A Writing Prompt – Five Tips for Creating a Memory List

As people are writing a memoir they will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back? Should I use writing prompts or is there something instead of a writing prompt?”

There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of life writing successful. That tool is not a writing prompt: it is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of life writing as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of such a list. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.

Let me tell you about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories).

Your Memory List is always a work in process because the more you remember and jot down, the more you’ll recall. You will return to and rework your list again and again as you write your life stories. In short, it will serve as an excellent writing prompt without being a writing prompt.

1. The Memory List consists of short memory notes (three to five words is sufficient) of people, events, relationships, thoughts, feelings, things—anything—from your past.

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9 Responses to Instead of A Writing Prompt – Five Tips for Creating a Memory List

  1. terry September 8, 2013 at 12:37 PM #

    I don’t have a smart phone, but the cell I have is smarter than me. It has a “to do” function under “tools”. When I have a memory I summarize it in a few words and its there when I sit down to write.

    Terry

  2. Charlotte Hyatt December 23, 2015 at 6:44 PM #

    Hi Denis,

    I began a blog, charlottehyatt.wordpress.com, as a memory list. Getting a temporary job was a boon for my finances, not so much for my blog(:. By the time the job ended I had neglected the blog so long I just forgot about it; I never went back. This article reminds me I need to start it up again.

  3. michelke monet October 22, 2017 at 1:38 PM #

    yes. i looove this and am using it nw with my memoir

  4. Chris Godman September 3, 2021 at 6:47 PM #

    Thankyou so much for this article. I have been overwhelmed and wondering where to start…I’ve used lots of writing prompts which sometimes help, but often don’t. This activity will give me focus and I love lists!

  5. Denis Ledoux September 4, 2021 at 8:31 AM #

    The Memory List has saved many a writer! Good luck.

  6. Denis Ledoux January 3, 2022 at 2:29 PM #

    I have always had a fond spot for the Memory List. You are right that it has saved many a writer.

  7. sheela sheth March 13, 2022 at 8:46 PM #

    What an innovative way to start a memoir. It has really opened up many doors to character building and dialogue too. Thank you for the free access to your network.

  8. Denis Ledoux March 14, 2022 at 2:23 PM #

    You are so welcome. The world needs our memoirs. I am constantly reading accounts from ordinary people. I am glad you are brushing up on your memoir writing skills and I hope you will keep in touch.

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