memoir writing
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memoir writing
a look at how we remember and write about the past
Curated by Gene Bodzin
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Lasting memory

Lasting memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The only way to control the capricious mechanisms of memory is to restyle them[…]One must learn to rein in the headlong gallop of random and unbridled recollection or go stark raving mad."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

There are more ways to tell life stories than there are people to tell them, and anybody who thinks there is a unique formula will end up in a restrictive, constraining box --- somebody else's box.

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Rebooting your memory

Rebooting your memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"We can choose what information deserves deeper consideration through the simple act of paying closer attention when we know it will do something for us, whereas a computer gives every input equal weight - from a forgettable joke on Facebook to your online banking password."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Knowing where to find information is often more important than retaining the information itself. That makes search engines especially valuable for the recall of public information. But if we are going to remember the details of our own lives, we must train ourselves to pay constant and close attention to  the world in front of us.

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The woman with no memory

The woman with no memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

Lonni Sue Johnson is an artist suffering profound amnesia after a nearly fatal battle with encephalitis in 2007. The disease destroyed her hippocampus, wiping out most of her old memories, as well as her brain’s ability to form new ones. 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Be here now, the old mantra advised. Here's a woman who lives in an eternal present time, not burdened with memories of the past and as a result unable to make informed judgments about the future. She nevertheless continues to function as an artist.

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Historians' problems with slave narratives

Historians' problems with slave narratives | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Every form of historical evidence has its own set of problems. The historian’s task is to recognize this truth, figure out what problems are inherent to each form of evidence, and find ways, if possible, to surmount them."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Looking for truth in a narrative is especially difficult when the parties at the heart of a story lack the tools to express themselves. But some stories are too important not to be told. 

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The novel that Norman Mailer didn't write

The novel that Norman Mailer didn't write | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The late nineteen-fifties, the time after Mailer’s third novel, should have been Mailer’s time. Instead, he frittered it away on a sort of bender of masculinity: bullfighting and boxing and street-brawling, drinking and marijuana and amphetamines, journalistic dustups and sexual adventures, theatre and plumbing and carpentry—a mad pursuit of so-called experience to take the place of where his life actually was."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

In looking for material to write, we sometimes go much farther afield than we should. Life is always staring us in the face, and the past is always there as wallpaper.

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Sharon Bakar's curator insight, October 23, 2013 12:15 AM

" ...he sacrificed his literary birthright for the pursuit of experiences that he considered literature-worthy, and he paid a high price to replace it."

Very interesting take on Norman Mailer.

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New Yorker cartoonists on their most autobiographical cartoons

New Yorker cartoonists on their most autobiographical cartoons | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"My kids are a total pain in the ass, and they correct me when I tell stories … it’s usually only in front of other people though."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Cartoons are sometimes funny because they say more about us than we would like to admit. These are based either on actual events in the cartoonist's life or on certain tendencies often covered up.

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The man who forgot everything

The man who forgot everything | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Unable to keep in mind what had happened to his parents, he put notes in his wallet telling him that his father was dead and that his mother was in a nursing home. But, without the notes, he found it hard to remember where his parents were or if they were dead or alive."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A look at one of the classic studies of an amnesiac, which gave us a great deal of practical information about how the brain processes memories. Largely free of jargon, it is a good introduction to the subject of memory.

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Healing through memories

Healing through memories | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"I used to see the memories as a problem to be solved. I used to see them as reliving my pain. I don’t anymore. Now, I see that my inner child feels comfortable enough to share new information with me." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

An examination of a process that will be familiar to many writers who did not know what they were getting themselves into when they began to record, organize, analyze their memories.

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Where do old memories go?

Where do old memories go? | memoir writing | Scoop.it
The you of today is molded not only by your personal history, but also by your mental visits to that past, prompting you to laugh over a joke heard yesterday, reminisce about an old friend or cringe at the thought of your awkward adolescence. When we lose those pieces of the past we lose pieces of our identity. But just where in the brain do those old memories go? 
Gene Bodzin's insight:

Another look at the study examined in the previous entry, "Why your memories are fading." 

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Alice Munro: The secret of a great story

Alice Munro: The secret of a great story | memoir writing | Scoop.it

“You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Lots of tantalizing suggestions for memoirists here, and inspiration for any writer who finds that stories keep changing.

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The limits of memory for witnesses of crime

The limits of memory for witnesses of crime | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Our brains seek out, collect, and analyze countless cues in any given interaction, which all add up and tell us—consciously or no—who is lying, who is dangerous, and what action we should take. But it also takes up a lot of brainpower in that moment—brainpower that would otherwise be used to, for instance, create memories. "

Gene Bodzin's insight:

We may think traumatic moments are imprinted indelibly in our minds and that they can be faithfully retrieved later. But, paradoxically, witnesses can be unreliable, however well intentioned they may be. Here's a study that examines the relationship between stress and memory.

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A new way to think about memoirs

A new way to think about memoirs | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"It is not always possible for a memoirist to be accurate. If their topic is addiction, most likely there's a lot they can't remember. The same is true for mental illness. Memory is fallible and concessions must be made."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Review of a book that is certain to send the reader scrambling to find dozens of other sources. A valuable resource.

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The memory loss myth

The memory loss myth | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"When there are no medical reasons for forgetfulness, memory can be learned. Memory failure is often attention failure. Those who can’t remember where they put their glasses probably put them down without making any effort to remember where they were putting them.”

Gene Bodzin's insight:

With an expanding elderly population comes increasing concern about memory loss. Forgetting where you put your keys (even when you are holding them in your hand) is not necessarily a sign of creeping dementia. But it is a sign, and it should not be ignored.

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Even with fading memory, Terry Pratchett continues to write

Even with fading memory, Terry Pratchett continues to write | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"When you read, I'm sure you don't realize that your eyes are going backwards and forwards and to this place and that place. Mine don't do that." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Memory is a precious possession, that we often take for granted. As it changes and fades, as it transforms our recollections, the past too changes. This author is attempting to retain the past in all its guises. 

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Early childhood testimony unreliable

Early childhood testimony unreliable | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Until the age of eight or nine, most people don't have a sense of memory that is developed enough to reliably recall more than the bare outline of events, particularly stressful ones, "

Gene Bodzin's insight:

If what children remember of the recent past is iffy, how much can we ever be sure of when we remember our childhood?

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Writing promotes emotional expression

Writing promotes emotional expression | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Writing our painful feelings down on a piece of paper makes them tangible and concrete before our very eyes." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

There are emotional benefits in writing about the people and events that once injured us, however long ago.

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Imagining alternate realities

Imagining alternate realities | memoir writing | Scoop.it
You know, the fun thing about writing a book is that it really is a different life, just as reading it is like a different life for the reader. I don’t want to write about my own life, I want to write about someone else’s, to live someone else’s life.
Gene Bodzin's insight:

Transmuted on the page, the past can take a variety of forms and reflect many possible events, on ly some of which were ever actualized. The truth sometimes lies in what did not happen.

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Celebrating Boston

Celebrating Boston | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Each one of us has his or her way of reaching out to a new city, of narrowing the distance between us and the world. I shut down, I refuse to explore, won’t listen, won’t budge, won’t care, won’t negotiate, and will always play hard to get. A place must come to me, court me, want me, not the other way around."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Who we become is often related to how we fit into where we are. This essay, showing the link between personality and place, will be especially evocative for readers who have lived in Boston for any length of time, though it should entertain and enlighten anybody who has lived in a new city. 

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6 bizarre things that make your memory worse than you think

6 bizarre things that make your memory worse than you think | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Although the finer workings of our memory bones are still surprisingly ill-understood by brainologists, what they have managed to uncover so far indicates that our rememberin' bits are mainly held together with the neuropsychological equivalent of duct tape and a prayer."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A reminder that it is often a mistake to put the words "perfect recall" and "human control" into the same sentence.

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They are full of fascinating life stories

They are full of fascinating life stories | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"While I explained to her that this memory loss is God’s way of keeping her busy all day, she was not entirely amused with that notion. She wants to feel 100 per cent all of the time."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

The stories in everybody's life makes them historians and archivists for the prople around them, especially as they age, even if they slip a notch or two. 

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The false memory archive

The false memory archive | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"He presents more than one unanswered question in his interrogation of and reflection upon what kind of truth, if any, can be revealed by a false memory."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

If you cannot tell the difference between an original and a copy, you have to ask whether it makes any difference. How far does this apply to memories?

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Why your memories are fading

Why your memories are fading | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"There are at least two major camps with competing models of how memory works and they are split mostly on the question of what role a specific part of the brain called the hippocampus plays. And now, a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins attempts to leave them both behind and forge a new path."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Repetition, significance, and distance in time all affect how we recall events. Research is trying to understand exactly what happens in the brain to change memories.

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Improve your life by paying attention

Improve your life by paying attention | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"If you could look backward at your years thus far, you’d see that your life has been fashioned from what you’ve paid attention to and what you haven’t. "

Gene Bodzin's insight:

What we remember depends on what we notice. Life, and memories, become richer when we notice more.  

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How to mindfully transform a painful memory

How to mindfully transform a painful memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

Through a mindfulness meditation practice, you can recover moments that the conscious mind has forgotten and 'restore the file.' Then you can reprogram your belief system, consciously choosing to lay a new neural network. However, if you decide to retain that file, you reinforce the old unwholesome belief, ensuring that it will affect your self-image in the future.

Gene Bodzin's insight:

In trying to retrieve the past, we can be sabotaged by pains that have limited and defined us for years. Facing down those pains can change our sense of who we are and effectively make us stronger as we move forward.

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Memory cloths help her process the past

Memory cloths help her process the past | memoir writing | Scoop.it

Nelson began using memory cloths as a way to look at her own life, family relationships, travels and political views. The repetitive, intimate task of embroidery helped her discover new truths in her own stories.

Gene Bodzin's insight:

There seems to be no limit to the number of ways of documenting life. Here's an article about a woman who says she discovers as much about herself by weaving the past as a writer can discover in words.

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