Can you remember your first day of kindergarten? First grade? Seventh grade? Chances are that you can’t, but you can reconstruct a scene that “rings true” to what your life was like at that time. Here’s an example from my own life (writing about seventh grade):
“Today was going to be the first day of school at rural Enon Junior High in rural Ohio. I would be in the seventh grade, and attending this school for the very first time. That’s because I had attended elementary school at a town in the other direction. Now, I was in effect switching towns. My mother had taken me shopping for two new dresses. This first day of school I was going to be wearing a deep turquoise blue dress with a sort of brown vest attached. I loved this dress, and it took some of the fear out of going to a school where I knew no one. I stood at the door of our house, watching for the school bus. I was clutching my new zip-up notebook. Inside, there was notebook paper as well as new pencils, pens, erasers, and a little container of Kleenex. As I saw the bus rounding the curve, I caught my breath. “It’s coming!” I shouted. My dog, Mikey, sitting beside me, gave a little bark of concern. My mother ran toward me from the kitchen. “Go, go, go!” she said, as she held the door open. As if seeing the anxiety that suddenly filled my eyes, she added, “Have a great time. Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.”
This walk down memory lane is not award-winning prose. I include it here simply to give you an idea of how you can work with your memory to produce a scene. This scene represents that first day of seventh grade. I don’t actually remember that morning, but I do remember the dress, the dog, and the place inside the door where I would watch for the school bus.
The point is to illustrate how we all have plenty of material stored away in our minds. We may be surprised to remember the picture on our lunchbox or the house key in our pocket. And, of course, butterflies in the stomach! 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 whose unique details will enchant us as well as our readers!
Hope you will give this a try! The preliminary time you spend in brainstorming or “freewriting” (just writing what comes to mind) is bound to pay off in a rich list of “ingredients” you can stir into your memoir essay or chapter.
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