Posts Tagged 'memories'

A Writer’s Spring Cleaning

For me, springtime is the perfect time for cleaning, not only our physical space, but our literary domains. This could mean organizing everything from our desk to our thoughts to our musings, to our unfinished poems or manuscripts.

In order to initiate this process, the writer needs to visit their favorite writing place. Visiting that special place in the springtime offers a unique opportunity to clean up the clutter sprawled about our literary world.

Virginia Woolf, author of Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and A Room of One’s Own coined the term, “A Room of One’s Own.” Woolf referred not only to the physical room—but also to the figurative room, the places writers go to tap into their subconscious or to find the muse that sparks their creative energy. This is a place writers are safe and happy, whether it is in the confines of their own home, in a coffee shop or in a retreat. Most writers are aware of their “place.”

While in your place, think about simplifying your life. One reason to consider doing this is so that you have more time to do what you really want to do, and that is write. To begin your cleaning, try composing , a literary to-do list. Start by making three columns. The first one could be called,  “Works-in-Progress,” the second could be “Future Projects,” and the third might be called “Back Burner Projects.” Preparing this list  will make it easier for you to prioritize and help you see that all of your projects may not be viable. Springtime gives you permission to make decisions about what’s important.

After preparing your list, go to the right column and start by filing away projects on the “Back Burner.”  Just get them off your desk. Perhaps you will return to them at a later date, but don’t let them clutter your work space. Remember that your goal for spring-cleaning is to de-clutter. Next, put your “Works-in-Progress” and “Future Projects,” in order of their priority. Now glance at your list again. Perhaps you have some insights about your work. This might be the time to crack open a new journal and jot them down.

I think of springtime as a time of new beginnings. Many of you know that I’m a journaling advocate for both the young, old, happy and sad. I believe there is a place for notebooks in all of our lives, whether it’s a small pocket notebook like the one carried by poet Kim Stafford or a larger format like I keep on my desk.

You might choose one notebook to lump all your musings, or you might favor separate ones for different projects. You might considering beginning a gratitude journal to write about what you’re thankful for and what brings  joy into your life, whether it’s people, places or things. Sometimes half the battle of achieving happiness, rests in the ability to verbalize or write down what brings you joy. What makes your heart dance? Writing empowers you to discover your deepest desires.

Springtime is also a good time to shed bad energy. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and those who nurture and inspire the writer in you. Wean yourself from what I call ‘toxic persons,’ who cast negative energy your way. This might be more challenging if those people are family members, as my father used to say, “You can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your relatives.”

If you have a relative who you don’t see eye-to-eye with, you might want to consider writing a letter expressing your feelings. Not only will this help relieve some of your stress, but it may also help foster a new beginning in your relationship.

Springtime often floods me with memories of lost loved ones and this is a good time to write about them. I like to think of every day as a new beginning, but springtime has its own unique kind of charm.

Enjoy your own writing and springtime!

Baby Boomers, Memory and Memoir

If you are like me and most other baby boomers you obsess a lot about memory loss. Sometimes it simply gets frustrating, such as when trying to recall details from books or scenes from movies recently seen. All this frustration has lead me to organize a refresher course for myself on how memory works, with the hope that in understanding memory, I can improve my own. One thing I know for sure is that memory is fickle and unpredictable. We never know how much we will remember and when we will remember certain things and not others. It’s important to know that memory is deeply tied to concentration.

Basically, we only remember so much. We all have selective memories and typically we do not remember what is uninteresting or unimportant. Our emotional states have a distinct affect on our memories. According to a recent study at Penn State University Erie, the brain has an override system that ‘trashes’ information which it finds outdated. While learning new information, if new details are revealed, then the brain has the ability to filter through the details and retain only vital information. So… is that why my husband didn’t remember when I told him that the bulbs in my office fixture burnt out weeks ago?

No matter what your profession, a good memory is important, but if you are a memoirist it is critical. Studies have shown that there are certain things we can do to improve our memories. Getting exercise has been shown to help memory because an increase in circulation improves brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Some believe that vitamin supplements can improve memory. The following vitamins are supposedly crucial for memory: Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate/Folic Acid (800mg), Vitamin E, and Gingko Biloba.

If you are writing memoir, here are some specific tips:

–       play music from the time period you are writing about

–       prepare foods from the time period you’re writing about

–       prepare timelines

–       look at photographs

–       keep notebooks everywhere to jot down notes

Memory exercises and repetition is also important. For example, if you are introduced to someone for the first time, in order to remember their name, repeat it three times – when introduced, during the conversation and when you’re leaving.

Back to my reading about memory, before I forget to do so! It has also been said that reading out loud improves memory, as long as it doesn’t disturb others around us. This is because it engages many senses and can be particularly helpful if you are reading complex material.

Have a good week!

Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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