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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Write to Remember

Much of my writing involves memoir or personal essays. Obviously, these forms rely heavily on memory. Unfortunately, memory is not what it used to be. However, you can strengthen specific memories and enrich your personal reflections as a consequence. Let me give you an example.

During the summer between my junior and senior years in high school, a friend and I hitchhiked from Northern California to Yuma, Arizona, and back. Some memories are clear, such as the ride in the back of a police cruiser just outside of San Diego. Other memories, such as how long we went without eating after we ran out of money, are less vivid.

Fortunately, I can telephone my high school buddy, Mike, and ask him to help me recall the details. I can also talk with Mike's older sister about the trip. We showed up on her doorstep in Yuma on a hot day in the middle of July as unexpected and uninvited guests. She remembers the incident very clearly. My memory is also helped by looking at a big roadmap of California and Arizona. California and Arizona newspapers from that summer also help stimulate memories. Looking at a picture of a Studebaker Hawk also conjures up images of my youth and that particular summer, but that's another story.

Just this brief sampling of memory joggers show how fading memories can be revived and enhanced. The resulting essay, story or memoir gains more depth and richness.

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