10 September 2012

The Way I Was: How Memory Can Serve Your Art

Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us. 
~ Oscar Wilde




B
logHer is hosting their NaBloPoMo this month ~ which for the life of me I can’t find what it stands for, but has something to do with blogging every day ~ a feat that would be the death of me.  Once a year in May with Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon is enough! 
Anyhoo, they have great prompts for blocked writers like me.  Today’s has to do with memory:
Wordsworth called memory the "inward eye."  Are your memories more sight-based, or do they concern sound, taste, touch, or smell?
As I’ve mentioned before, some memories are triggered by smells, or tastes.  But when I read this question, I took it to mean that when the memory is re-lived, do you then smell those cookies baking, or hear your mother humming, or touch the softness of your favorite dog’s fur?

The Rorschach of My Mind
Pandora’s box has nothing on my hippocampus and medial temporal lobes.

I dream and re-live memories in colour and with real emotion. Monet and Freud would have killed to be in my head.  In fact, my dreams are so vivid and seem so real, that if something tragic or sad happens in my dreams, I wake up crying.  And the same goes for memories; although sadly, the strongest ones are times when I’ve been hurt by someone or experienced a frightening situation.  I remember, and my body goes into flight or fight mode all over again.

Perhaps the increased adrenaline experienced during those times makes the memories “stick” out more.  Although I have to admit, there are some memories that I can recall easily because of the copious amount of endorphins that were coursing through my system.  Whatever it is, I have my own personal Xbox

in my mind.

So why is this important for writers (or any other artist)? 

Raiding the Mental Scrapbook
This “realness” that I experience when dreaming or accessing memories has the potential to translate into plots that are more believable, essays that are hard-hitting, and poems that make the reader think and emote with me.

If I don’t believe it, you won’t either.

On the other hand, if there is too much “me” in the resulting story, then you won’t be able to take it in and make it your own.  Instead, you’ll read it and think, “Gee, it’s terrible what happened to her!”  or “What a wonderful surprise for her!”  Whereas I want you to feel the emotion I’m conveying as if it were your own memory, your own dream.

The Muggle’s Penseive
Remember how memories worked in Harry Potter?  They were captured and stored in a penseive (ha ha) where one could later step into the memory and re-live it.  Ahh, if only that were possible.  Oh wait.  It is!

It’s called a journal. 

It can be made of paper, parchment, or digital files. Words on a page, images on a screen, or voices on a file.  Catch the emotion on the fly.  Set the record straight today.  Draw from it to create a new tomorrow.  Keep it to remember who you were, where you’ve been, and how you got here.

And take us along for the ride.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What about you?  Are your memories sight-based, or do they concern sound, taste, touch, or smell?
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