Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Memoir (A to Z Blogging Challenge)

Abigail Thomas writes in her Thinking About Memoir that "memories survive on a wisp of fragrance, or a particular shade of blue, or a song that reminds you of a song, and you don't want to miss anything."
I've taken up photography as a mad passion the last couple of years. I was always a picture taker but now more than any other time in my life, I feel the need to document everyday happenings. I have a horrible memory and I'm afraid it is not getting better. I tell myself it's because there is no room remaining in my very full hard-drive of a brain. However, there are times when stuff from very long ago bubbles up out of nowhere.  I'm amazed and intrigued by the memories that have survived years of being buried at the bottom of the burn pile, still smoldering and hot.
I started writing memoir last year. The date on my document is exactly one year ago this month. I have not opened that file or added to it since I closed it. It got too painful. And, I hadn't even hardly gotten started.  Abigail writes: "Truth is what I'm ultimately after, truth or clarity ... once in a while you come too close to a nerve, and your writing goes flat, and your first thought might be to change the subject."
She nails it.

Why write memoir?
One more passage from Abigail's book I'll leave you with really shook me this morning, especially the last line:
"My husband, Rich, lost his memory after he was hit by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury. In a moment of perfect clarity he once described his loss like this:  "Pretend you are walking up the street with your friend. You are looking in windows. But right behind you is a man with a huge paint roller filled with white paint and he is painting over everywhere you've been, erasing everything. He erases your friend. You don't even remember his name."  It's terrifying. Because who are we without five minutes ago?
Are you a writer or photographer? Do you have a good memory? Do you wish you only remembered the good things?  
love, susan


  1. Oh how I can relate to an untouched memoir. With your recommendation, I reserved the book at the library. I'm hoping it will nudge me into continuing.

  2. Reading "Thinking about Memoir" was like eating food for my soul. I devoured it, had second and third helpings of single paragraphs and chapters. It's a must read for anyone who dreams in technicolor and words. I wrote a post about the amazing photograph on the cover (It was suggested reading when I took a writing class.).

    I read-write-photograph, laugh at my memory lapses, and am finally able to come with uncomfortable not-so-good-memories. How could there be good without the not-so-good? We learn from both, yes? Besides, not revisiting the "bad" memories gives them power I need. Girl, therapy helps if you work it. :) (Great questions.)

  3. Sounds like a great book Susan...and one that I need. I am running into memory issues in writing memoir: I'm finding that I just don't remember much of what I'd love to write about. I'm hoping that some of these hidden memories spring forth so I can continue that project. I need a wisp of fragrance or something...!! I love when smells bring back memories. Those are sometimes the neatest occurrences involving the senses. I've attempted journaling but always seem to fail miserably. I just need some damn discipline! Great post.
    Michele at Angels Bark

  4. How poignant and sad. Losing our memory, whether it is from age or illness or accident must be a terrifying experience . I can only imagine how hard it must be to write a painful memoir. I'm not sure I could handle traveling back through life's most painful and tragic moments . Sometimes when I am working on my novel, I conjure up a distant memory to help me write a character who is experiencing something similar. There have been times when I had to close my notebook and stop . I enjoyed your post


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