By Susan Maccarelli of “Beyond Your Blog”
I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: Write what you know. Well, what do you know better than your own life story? But if you don’t have a great memory, you may find yourself staring at a blank page, wondering what your childhood pet goldfish was named. Luckily, there are some tricks that might help jog your memory and give you some new (old) material to write about:
Reread Your Email and Social Media. This is a great source for finding inspiration in your more recent past. Try digging into some of your older messages: It’s amazing how much detail can be captured in emails between friends and family regarding events that may have been forgotten or become fuzzy over time. Some of your early Facebook and Twitter updates may inspire you to reflect on how you have changed over time, or move you to write the full-circle story of something from past to present. For example, in fourteen years I hope to look back at all my potty training Facebook lamentations and be inspired to write a story titled “They WEREN’T Lying When They Told Me He’d Be Wearing Big Boy Undies By The Time He Went To High School.”
Check Yearbooks. Between the photos, superlatives, clubs, and of course the notes your classmates left on the inside covers, school yearbooks can be a great source of writing inspiration. Also in this category for you pack rats out there: old programs, journals, handwritten notes, pen pal letters, etc.
Ask Around. Parents, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances all have stories about you, complete with their own perspective. You can use social media to reach out to individuals whom you may not have access to otherwise. Facebook Groups for graduating classes, alumni, and local town groups are filled with people reminiscing about past events. With a few questions, you’ll be able to easily get information about stories you may recall, including the detail you may be fuzzy on.
Read For Inspiration. As writers, most of us read a lot—both for pleasure and as inspiration for our own writing. As an example: I currently have The Hobbit on my nightstand. You may be wondering how I can find inspiration to write about my past given that I am not from Middle Earth (though I am abnormally short with hobbit-like feet). While I may not be on a dangerous quest through a dark forest, I can use this story to inspire thoughts about a time when I was far from home and lonely, or when I surprised myself with my own strength, or when I went on an unlikely adventure.
Look At Photos. Old photos can stir up many memories. Don’t just look at the people—carefully examine the background. What gifts are under the tree? What dishes are on the table? Whose car is in the background? What shoes are you wearing? These small details can bring back strong memories.
Try Prompts. Sometimes a question or prompt can unlock details that you thought you had forgotten. There are lots of resources for memory-jogging prompts. Check out these prompts that jog some of your childhood memories or these journal writing prompts related to your memories.
Find Old Newspapers. This is one situation where old news can be good news! Visit your local library and review newspaper archives. If you lived in the same place for a long time, or if you grew up in a small town, the local newspaper can be very useful. Conversely, looking at national and world news for a certain time frame can also jog memories. An Internet search for “Top News Stories” plus the year you’re researching will yield pop culture news, movies and books that were popular, world news and more that may relate to a personal story or memory you’d like to share.
Whether you are reading about Bilbo, using Facebook, or talking to a relative at a family reunion, there are memories just waiting to be recalled—and for you to start writing about them!
QUESTION: What techniques do you use to help you remember life events to write about?
Susan Maccarelli helps bloggers get published on sites outside of their personal blogs on her blogging resource site Beyond Your Blog. Her weekly podcast with an editor shares insights on how to get published on digital publications, plus resources, tips, and success stories to encourage bloggers to write, submit, get published, and get read. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, and her Facebook Group.
These are really helpful tips Susan. Anniversarys tend to jog memories for me – especially the ones FB sends out – 1 year ago today…I’m heading over to check out those writing prompts.
These are all great ideas. I especially love the one about carefully canvassing old photos for clues and details. So much information in the background. I am usually only looking at faces. Great collection, thanks so much for pulling them together in one place.
Angela – I love those Facebook annual or periodic posts as well. Sometimes its almost new to me and I think ‘did I post that?’. Thanks for reading Terry!