One exercise I often do at workshops consists of having participants reflect on what the breakfast scene might have looked like on the morning of their first day of school. Few people can actually remember that morning! But, they can reconstruct what it ‘might’ have looked and felt like. And even what it sounded and and smelled like!
I begin by providing everyone with a brainstorming sheet. This is divided into four quadrants. The upper left is labelled “The Room” with the prompts — What did you see? Hear? Smell? The upper right is labelled “People and Pets” with the prompts — What are they saying and doing? The lower left quadrant is labelled “Breakfast” with the prompts — What’s to eat? What are the dishes like? Who prepared the food? And, finally, the lower right quadrant is labelled “Your Mood and Temperament” with the prompts — What kind of child were you? How were you feeling on this morning?
I then allow 5 to 10 minutes of silence as people jot down words and phrases in the four quadrants. After this, there is time to begin writing a paragraph or two. And, often participants go home to continue their writing, having been launched by this fun exercise!
The point of is to illustrate how we all have plenty of material stored away in our minds. We remember the family dog sloshing water from his dish onto the linoleum! We remember reading the Wheaties box! We remember the kitchen clock with the cat tail ticking off the seconds. We remember Mom telling us to hurry up! We remember the butterflies in our stomach on such a morning. And so forth. In writing memoir, time is well-spent in brainstorming with ourselves so that we can bring these memories to the forefront of our minds. Then, when we start to write, the words will just flow! And we’ll have a story that will entertain us as well as our readers!
Hope you will give this a try! The preliminary time you spend in brainstorming is bound to pay off in a rich list of “ingredients” you can stir into your writing.
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