Write Part of My Memoir in November, Day 17: The Logic of Memory

Write Part of My Memoir

Welcome to Day 17 of my memoir challenge, wherein I consider the way my memory works. 

One of the biggest obstacles to writing a memoir is the obvious one:  It’s hard to pin down events from the past. Sometimes you can contact other people to spur or confirm your recollections. Very often you can’t.

Before I started writing Getting Naked for Money in earnest, I took a kind of Peter Pan approach: I thought if I concentrated hard enough and believed, the fading memories would come alive, like Tinker Bell. Unfortunately, that’s rarely worked for me. Maybe I should have tried clapping my hands.

It was a surprise, then, to find that logic has often come to my rescue.

I’ll start writing about something I’m certain I knew or did, and then ask myself how did I know that? Why would I — or someone else — do that? Being a reporter of my own life, asking the right questions, can do the trick.

Recently, for example, I remembered a story about a rival Arizona guidebook writer who, instead of doing on site research, holed up in an informal B&B eating SpaghettiOs and making phone calls. I also recalled the source of the story — let’s call him Joe — but couldn’t for the life of me think why he would tell me something so negative out of the blue. How did he have the information to begin with? What was the logic?

Then it came to me.  I was walking around a Phoenix museum, taking notes, when a man working on one of the exhibits asked if he could help me with anything. I thanked him and said no, explaining I was researching a new guidebook. Joe was surprised that I was being so assiduous. I was surprised at his surprise. Why wouldn’t I want to experience something I was writing about first-hand?

That’s when Joe told me that a friend of his ran an informal B&B and had complained to him about a SpaghettiO-eating, guidebook-writing guest who never left his room. Joe therefore assumed that this was how all guidebook authors did research.

That made sense.

So, fellow memoirists: How do you recall forgotten incidents? What works best for you?

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About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Pamela says:

    Bwa ha ha! What a great story. Of course you’d have to remember it.

    The next time I read a guidebook, I’ll think carefully about whether the author was traveling or eating spaghetti-o’s. 🙂

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