This week on NPR there was a program about memory exercises and it occurred to me that the exercises were perfect for writers The first one was to remember the past – pick a year and write down everything you can remember about that year. The second was about sense memories – close your eyes and smell the spices in your cupboard – can you name them? Can you remember the sounds you’ve heard this morning? The images? Tastes? Touches? And the third was juggling facts – name the presidents backward to Truman. Put them in alphabetical order. List whether they were Republicans or Democrats. I figure as writers we’re doing this all the time – dredging up memories, paying attention to our five senses, and in any essay, memoir or novel we’re working on, we juggle a multitude of experiences, names, details, and facts.
Half the people I know are in a state of panic over their memory. I for one have names and places fly out of my head constantly. But hey – not only are we expected to remember the names of everybody we know and have known – but also their spouses or partners, their kids, their parents, their pets, eventually their grandkids, where they all live, their occupations and vacation destinations. It’s too much if you’re over the age of say forty. And decade by decade it gets more complicated, you know more and more people. If you’re a writer all you really need to know is what your senses are picking up, your memories of the past, and what your characters are up to.