10 Tips for writing about your memories

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Memory journaling can be tough. Retrieving a memory is not like opening a document stored on a hard drive or pulling a file folder out of a cabinet. We all “file” our memories but sometimes we embellish the truth of them. We think we’ll remember the depth of feeling we’ve experienced or the way the event unfolded but we don’t – not even close. As we age our memories fade. That’s why memory journaling is important not only for us but for our families. So here are 10 useful tips on writing about your life:

  1. Use memory triggers. Flip through photo albums, greeting cards you’ve received, yearbooks, home movies.

  2. Thoughts and memories match moods. So, if you’re trying to remember your wedding, Don’t write about it when you are sick or upset.

  3. Sometimes if you visit the site of your memory more of the events you are trying to remember will be easier to recall. More often than not, this is not possible. When it is, take advantage. I have tried over the years to revisit my hometown and have discovered many happy memories I’d forgotten. Oh yes, many of the stores on Main Street are different but have you noticed – street names remain the same.

  4. Have you heard of the term “autobiographical memory?” This comprises both memory and general knowledge pertinent only to the individual. If you were to make timelines for each of your “spheres” of your life and list important events such as weddings, graduations, awards, births and deaths etc. your life would be unfolded in front of you.

  5. Pay attention to what’s distinct. Some of our memories are hazy, fragmented or seemingly trivial. Each one, however, make up YOUR life. Even if the memory seems difficult to understand, work with it.

One of my memories concerns the writing of this blog. I had a lot of technical questions and sought help from a new friend. I remember how I was hesitant to admit that my concepts were not completely formed. After contemplating that memory I realized that her gentle guidance helped me form the basis of all my blog writing since then. Now, every time I post an article I think of her and her advice.

  1. Don’t try to remember events from your early childhood. Few of us remember first grade jitters!

  2. Describe events as you remember them. Do the facts match up to how you lived, where you lived and your day to day life as it was then?

  3. Remembering is not like looking at a picture or even watching a video. These are triggers. (See #1). Relieving the memory is a sensory thing. You feel and “see”  and react to the memory. I grew up in a small New England town. I was a “tom boy” and spent my youth climbing trees, riding horses and reading a lot! I also grew up watching western tv shows. I  ‘re-watched an episode of Laramie ( a tv western produced in the early 1960’s) the other day. In the scene, the character’s horse started galloping down a hill. Suddenly I was “transported” back to a dusty corral in New York state. The afternoon Sun was hot on my face and I could feel the perspiration sliding down my shirt. The feel of my horse’s muscles were beneath me, my feet were firmly planted in the stirrups and my instructor ( a crusty old gent) said loudly, “use your legs” and “I don’t want to see daylight between you and that saddle!” I learned how to canter that day and it was a feeling I remember now so vividly.  I was glad I remembered it and could share it.

  4. It’s not to late to start your journal of memories. Your future self will thank you.

  5. Be as honest as you can when writing about your memories. Names of birthday clowns are trivial but dates and names are not.

Final note: This is YOUR life – what are you waiting for?



What happened to my life?

Dear Fellow Journalers,

A perspective post from G.


WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LIFE ? Subtitle: How did it go by so fast ?

FAIR WARNING: I really don’t know if this piece is inspired by my recent illness, but writing and reading it, it’s a pretty good piece for anyone, regardless of age or health, to read. If not, hit delete. Also, like my life, it’s a little long. **************************************************************** It’s amazing to me. It REALLY is amazing. It feels like I’m 18, but my recent birthday a few weeks ago, firmly cements my place as an “official old man.” Now I don’t know if it’s common to all “old timers”, but in the last year or so I’ve had a flood, no, make that deluge, or tidal wave, of memories. Whether inspired by a simple, unexpected, “trigger” or a subconscious dream, they charge me like the Light Brigade at Sevastopol. And like it or not, I must deal with them. Another thing about these memories, some from 70 years ago, or seven years ago, or seven days ago, is that I really and truly don’t know if it’s Gods’ way of having me prepare to say goodbye to life, or preparing me for things yet to come ahead. Frankly, either way, I can’t wait to find out which. Another thing: all these things sometimes make no sense. I may have some sparked memory from say, 60 years ago, that was such a minor thing I can’t believe I remembered it. Other memories, I have absolute certainty why I remember it. Oh well, what the hell. The most positive thing about these memories is that they force you to look back at your life with either happiness, or unhappiness. For me, there’s no in between. Frankly, I’m glad about that. Makes thinking clearer. Some of these memories are JOYOUS !

Do you remember the first time you were really in love? I do— I was seventeen, and a junior in high school. She was smart, personable, pretty, and perfect. I was gonzo ! It was doomed to failure of course. She was off to college in New York, me off to college in Indiana, then the Marines, then Vietnam. But THANK YOU my wonderful first love. You gave me memories and taught me things about life I can never, ever forget. God Bless and keep you, where ever you are.

Then there are the memories that are HORRENDOUS ! I fought in the battle of Khe Shan in Vietnam. It was truly hell on earth. Death and destruction were EVERYWHERE. Funny thing— it was bad enough while it happened, but the other night I had a very detailed dream about it. (over 50 years later) It was like a childhood dream where you are being chased by monsters, aliens, and all things bad. I woke up in a cold, raw sweat, drenched from head to foot, and shaking. But this horrible experience WAS a part of my life, and helped shape it just like all the good memories.

All of us have memories at any age. Like me, some are good, some bad. But it seems to me that as you pass the “golden mark” (What the hell is golden about it? You get old, you get sick, and then you die) that memories become increasingly more significant. You get to question the content, character, purpose, and value of the life you’ve lived. Sometimes, you’re happy with the result, other times, not so much. Intelligent people call this “LIFE.” My favorite aunt (long since departed) had a favorite saying: Life is life, UNTIL life becomes what YOU make it. A good saying, even after so, so many years. God Bless and keep you Lady, wherever you are. Remember the old Barbara Streisand song ‘Memories?” “Memories, like the corners of our mind, misty watercolor memories of the way we were.” Reminds me of another saying of a favored teacher, and later mentor: What you WERE is ne’er as important as what you are NOW.

I’m also a very lucky man. I confess to having a “man cave”, plus the Jerry Goodwin study, filled with the mementoes of my life. Pics of family and friends, especially Carla, Laur-Laur, and K-K are everywhere. These never fail to bring a huge smile to my face. Momentos of Marine days, and of civilian job are there too. Two of my favorites are from my years at the printing company when I had to fire a particularly bad employee everybody hated. When I told him he was fired, he took a swing at me. I was forced to put him down. The employees gave me a photoshopped picture of Godzilla wearing boxing gloves, with the inscription: “In memory of the stupid son of a bitch who took on Godzilla”. My other favorite is a simple frame with a red felt background, upon which are nine black Marine emblems. It symbolizes the nine Marines who died under my command. I NEVER want to forget them, because the sacrifice of their lives means I HAVE TO make the most of mine. In order to get from my bedroom to the bathroom each morning, I have to pass the Goodwin study. As I do, I touch the door jamb and pat it. After so many years, it has a slight indentation from this practice. God bless, love and keep you my cherished friend, wherever you are. You taught me what true friendship is. Also throughout the house are momentos, citations, awards, medals etc. Some of them were presented to me by some of you reading this. THANK YOU ! They mean a lot, and when on days the world seems cold and dark, they remind me that at least on some days my life had meaning and purpose. That somehow I accomplished some good for my fellow-man. Believe me, an old man (or woman) really needs that. My personal religious beliefs are that someday I will be brought before God for a “final judgment.” God will say “Account for your life !” I hope, I really really hope, that the first words out of my mouth are : THANK YOU GOD FOR GIVING ME SUCH A FABULOUS LIFE ! If I can do that, I’ll take my chances from there. So as I began this over long piece, “What happened to my life?” Answer is Life happened to my Life ! The good, the bad, the ugly, the heartfelt and the heartbreak, the tried, the true, the false and the bullshit. And one morning, wearing the disguise of an old man, I saw it all for what it was / is— MY LIFE.

I close (finally !) with a request for a favor: When you have time, grab your favorite beverage, find your favorite spot, put your feet up, and regardless of your age, cherish the memories of YOUR LIFE ! Until next time, and more ramblings of an old man———


Ordinary, every day memories

Dear Fellow Journalers,

A memory can be as simple as an outing in the park with a grandparent or as complicated as a trip to London, England. Why write down and keep a record of ordinary events or conversations? People will argue that the memory of extraordinary events such as first steps or graduations are way to important. Could the memory of a movie night at home with family be pleasurable to remember  some two months after the fact?

It’s interesting to contemplate the reasons why some people choose ordinary events to write about and ‘re-read months later. Memories are part of our identity whether the memories are “good” or “bad”.  The interesting thing is, is the fact that our brains are wired to help us remember certain events that later take on great significance.

The moments that tend to be the most meaningful are rarely the ones we expect. I recently read a review about a newly published book about general stores. The title is “New England General Stores”. All at once, I remembered the general store in the town I grew up in. I could “see” the shelves that reached to the ceiling packed with every shape box imaginable. There were stuffed animals bookended between hard covered cookbooks and candy in mason jars. Baskets hung from the ceiling and comic books were in neat trays near the wood counter. Upon later reflection, I could remember the friendly store manager who let me wait for the school bus just inside the front door. He always had a steaming cup of cocoa ready for me on frosty mornings.

So what are you waiting for? What day-to-day memories should you be writing about?


Memory journal covers

Dear Fellow Journalers,

As we’ve seen, there are millions of layouts for memory journals and there are millions of covers too. Enjoy!


Memory cover #1Memory cover #2Memory cover #3

Memory Journal Layouts

Dear Fellow Journalers,

A few of the millions of pics of memory journal layouts. I found these on Pinterest. I hope they will inspire you.


Layout  Layout #2  Layout #3

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