Thursday, February 25, 2010

Memoir Memory Triggers: Go Get Yourself One.

Yesterday, I wrote about the memory triggers we all encounter on a daily basis and, as a nonfiction writer, the importance of paying attention to them. Today, I'd like to share a list of memory triggers which can be a huge source of material. Often, these triggers cross our paths unbidden. Other times, perhaps when we are trying to access a stubborn memory, or just find ourselves in need of new ideas, we might want to go in search of a memory trigger. Take a look and consider….

People Watching
Smells * (studies say this is the MOST potent memory trigger)
Music * (2nd most)
Song lyrics
Watching kids / younger people
Old magazines, newspapers
Objects (memorabilia – vintage or antique store)
Online resources
TV – film – plays
Old neighborhoods
Journals, diary
Relatives' memories
Old greeting cards
Tests, exams, textbooks, report cards, transcript, diploma, certificate
Old business cards
Eavesdropping – strangers/friends - family gatherings – parties – public spaces
Specialty stores & catalogs
Basements – attics – closets – storage unit
Colors, patterns, decorations
Calendars, datebooks
Old legal documents – deed, bill of sale, contract
Cookbooks, recipes
Family videos
Radio talk shows (especially interview/magazine type, not political)
Events where you are an observer, but not a direct participant
Sections of the newspaper you don't normally read
Parades, public celebrations
Reunions (family, school, work- or hobby-related)
Books you've read and re-read

Did I miss anything?


Marianne said...

Music, smells and photographs are all strong triggers for me - but music and smells work more viscerally, which I suspect generates more powerful writing.

Thanks for a great blog, Lisa!

Anonymous said...

What a great list, thank you. It's funny, just reading the list brought a few thoughts to my mind. Radio show made me think of a time when I was on a radio talk show in Japan and got really lost in what I was saying. Even more comes back from that experience, and it popped into my head from "just" the list.

Susan Bearman said...

Heard an old ad jingle that was local only to the Detroit area that brought up a lot of memories. In fact, it was on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor on Saturday, which was being broadcast from Detroit.

In his little spiel about the city from which he is broadcasting, he always includes a lot of historical references. For me this week in Detroit, he talked about the old Tiger Stadium, Bettermade Potato Chips (where my Grandmother worked), Faygo pop and Vernors Gingerale, the Fox Theatre — many things from my childhood.

His shows are archived here, so that means the host cities are searchable. Could spark some memories for other people.

Essays Writing said...
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