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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Parents must be the memory keepers

Parents must be the memory keepers | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Just as parents manage schedules, laundry and meals, they may want to be thoughtful about managing their kids’ memories. "

Gene Bodzin's insight:

This appeal to parents to act as custodians of their children's memories has a bearing on why no two people in a family can remember exactly the same events. 

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Can eyewitnesses create memories?

Can eyewitnesses create memories? | memoir writing | Scoop.it
The brain fills in information that was not there. It's called reconstructed memories. It happens to us in all the aspects of our life, all the time. 
Gene Bodzin's insight:

We create memories all the time, filling in the past because our brains were busy doing something else at crucial moments.

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How to erase bad memories

How to erase bad memories | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Recalling a memory is something like pulling a book off the library shelf for review. The book is now subject to alteration or destruction, and it must be placed back in the proper place on the shelf. Disrupt a person’s attention in the middle of browsing, and the book can be easily misfiled. "

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A look at how neuroscience is taking advantage of the way we store, retrieve, and  use memories.

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Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory

Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Many of the foibles of memory make sense once we abandon the idea that it serves only to record the past. Seen through the prism of evolution – and in biology, nothing makes sense otherwise – memory assumes a more crucial role than a recording device. Our memories of the past help us act in the future." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Review of a far-ranging, interdisciplinary examination of various aspects of memory. Suggests that the book will be most useful for those looking deeply at the subject for the first time. 

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How many of your memories are fake?

How many of your memories are fake? | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"There is no absolute guarantee that everything in a nonfiction narrative is the absolute truth, but you as the writer have the obligation to get as close to the truth as you possibly can, and the only way to do that is to report the living hell out of it.”

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A more detailed treatment of a recent post, worth repeating because we all need to be humble about what we remember when we write life stories.  

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What your "life story"' really says about you

What your "life story"' really says about you | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"According to research in narrative psychology, an emerging field of study that examines how stories shape our lives and personalities, the stories we tell ourselves play a large role in who we are."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

The narratives we tell about ourselves are not simply a record of past events. They shed light on how we have seen ourselves; they reflect the stories we have developed and altered, and show changes in how we have perceived our own personalities over time. Telling a life story is part of an ongoing process of self-examination.

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By Anonymous: Can a writer escape vulnerability?

By Anonymous: Can a writer escape vulnerability? | memoir writing | Scoop.it

 "You stand a reasonably good chance of denying ever having read a book, but it’s a great deal harder to hide from having written one." 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

There is your public self, there is your private self, and there is who you reveal when you write about yourself, either in fiction or memoir. At bottom, the urge for expression subsumes the desire to be known; there is an inherent contradiction between writing and remaining anonymous.

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We are what we hide

We are what we hide | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The psyche is a clock with at least four hands that move in different directions simultaneously. We live amid the riot of our own secret counterpoints, some of which complete and fulfill our human promise, some of which betray it."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Life is rarely what it appears to be on the surface. Depicting a life in pigments or in words sometims means revealing what would otherwise remain hidden.

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Memory loss and memories in ageing brains

Memory loss and memories in ageing brains | memoir writing | Scoop.it
The thought of losing our memory is a terrifying part of ageing, but there are surprising upsides, says Douwe Draaisma in The Nostalgia Factory
Gene Bodzin's insight:

As we age, we do not remember the same things we recalled when we were younger. Now studies have shown that how we remember changes as well.   

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Sometimes the tough teen is quietly writing stories

Sometimes the tough teen is quietly writing stories | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"When I turned the last page I found myself on the verge of tears. I was shocked. How could black and white on a page make me feel so emotional? I was a tough kid from a tougher family. I hadn't shed a tear since elementary school. And here I was, choked up. From a book."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Reading expands our world, transporting us to times and places we could never reach on our own.  As writers, however modest, we can take others into new worlds as well. By sharing our lives, our dreams, our experiences, we can give them new meaning and inspire others . 

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Voice in the novel – finding yours

Voice in the novel – finding yours | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Voice is to writing as personality is to humans. You can be handsome, but bland. Or you can be plain, but alive. Likewise a writing style can be perfectly competent, but completely pedestrian."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

This essay is not detailed enough to be helpful for inexperienced writers, but it offers a variety of hints and nudges for all writers of life stories, fictional or not. 

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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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How do experiences become memories?

How do experiences become memories? | memoir writing | Scoop.it
We tend to confuse memories with the real experience that gave rise to those memories.
Gene Bodzin's insight:

In this transcript of a TED talk, Daniel Kahneman makes a key distinction between the experiencing self and the remembering self. It's a useful distinction that sheds a new light on why we attach certain emotions to our memories.

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Jane Franklin and the great man syndrome

Jane Franklin and the great man syndrome | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"In writing Jane's biography, Lepore had few facts and scant remains to work with. 'Her obscurity,' she writes, 'is matched only by her brother's fame. If he meant to be Everyman, she is everyone else.' Historian Lepore's project investigates 'what it means to write history not from what survives but from what is lost.'"

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Much of what we know about the people who lived in earlier periods is in the stories of famous men who changed the direction of countries and societies. But what of the other half, the women who raised the children who became famous? We all know their work was never done; but what was their work, and why are their stories so rarely told? 

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Mark Twain's eternal chatter

Mark Twain's eternal chatter | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"Now the second installment of his autobiography has arrived, and it’s unlikely to convert anyone who disliked the first. Twain pursues whatever chain of thought presents itself, and he continues to pursue it until he gets bored."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

None of us are likely to enjoy the fame of Mark Twain, and we cannot expect potential readers to salivate at the thought of our unpublished works a century after we die. Most of us must choose our words carefully for a few readers in our own time. Nevertheless, there is a broad market for the ramblings of an old man who has outlived his time – ramblings parodied by Twain himself in chapter 53 of Roughing It. The story of Jim Blaine and his grandfather's old ram should be required reading for all writers with logorrhea. 

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Memoir: a defense

Memoir: a defense | memoir writing | Scoop.it

The best of memoir, so often (but not always) written with an "I" is, in truth, about the "we." I believe our very finest memoirists are philosophers, risk takers, sentence forgers, structural innovators, language shapers. They alert us, calm us, reach toward us. 

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Here is the crux of the issue: memoir is not what happened, or even what is supposed to have happened to a writer who can now look back on the past. If memoir does not reflect the mysteries and ambiguities of human life, plus some of the doubts and regrets that follow experience, it is of as little use to a reader as a diary would be. The question is not what happened, but the meaning of what happened.

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Photographic memory? Negative

Photographic memory? Negative | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"We tell stories to ourselves about how we experienced things to make sense of them. And that's what the purpose of memory is, to make sense of our experiences."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

An examination of why memories sometimes fool us, and why it often doesn't matter. 

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Even people with super recall tripped up by false memories, study finds

Even people with super recall tripped up by false memories, study finds | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"People can swear in court, and truly believe, in the accuracy of their false memories. But confidence does not equal accuracy.”

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Evidence that, where memory is concerned, we are all human, equally liable to make mistakes.

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What's the value of nostalgia? What (and how) are you remembering these days?

What's the value of nostalgia? What (and how) are you remembering these days? | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"in recent years, nostalgia has received a conceptual rehabilitation due to a revival of scholarly interest accompanied by the use of contemporary empirical methods."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Some resources for the examination of a condition that infects us all from time to time.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen.

 

 

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Writing my father's face

Writing my father's face | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"The pages in this passport are mostly blank, as are the bleak eyes that stare out at me. I cannot look at this photo for long. My father's haunted look seems to transcend even himself, going beyond personal pain into the transpersonal realm of human suffering."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

A picture, it is said, is worth a thousand words. But when pictures are all we have of somebody, the many thousands of words they evoke can become questions. And these doubts and wonderings can be as interesting as any other story of a person's life.

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Writing taboo

Writing taboo | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"To me, writing memoir is about more than telling the truth. It's about creating meaning out of what otherwise seems meaningless. It's about transforming tragedy into art."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

Writing life stories is often more revealing than entertaining, something that takes more courage than stage presence. If a story is to jump with life off the page, a writer must first overcome a fear of blood and sweat. Those things belong on the page; they are what readers will take away.

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What memories are made of

What memories are made of | memoir writing | Scoop.it

"We rescript our memories to keep pace with our current emotional state, or what we know to be true at this moment in time. In this way, the ordinary process of simply living life revises what we know to be real. We can never recapture what we in fact experienced at the time."

Gene Bodzin's insight:

There is truth and there is Truth, what we believe to have happened to us and what might have been evident to an objective observer. When we act on the basis of our beliefs and memories, we are perpetuating "facts" that may have no basis outside our own minds.  The significance of that observation is an open question, and it depends on much more than objective reality. 

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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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