Making Memories Work
I am always amazed at the memories that lurk in the depths of my brain... or wherever it is memories live. In my blog bio I admit to being a nostalgia obsessive and many of my posts are inspired by memories, but I’ve earned money from memories too.
Using memory as a starting point for writing can produce unexpected outcomes. One of my favourite writing exercises, especially when working with a new group, is to have 5 minutes free flow writing about a room remembered from childhood. It always produces surprises. People write about things they didn’t remember they remembered and rooms can hold particularly powerful memories.
In 2008 I was the facilitator of a Heritage Lottery funded project collecting memories about Leicester’s Jewish Community in the 1940s and 50s and creating a book, a website and a touring display. The 70 elderly contributors thoroughly enjoyed the writing workshops even though for many it was their first taste of creative writing. I’d known most of them all my life so I enlisted the help of Miriam Halahmy for the workshop activities. They loved her and her contribution was invaluable.
We worked together for three months collecting memories that tumbled onto notepads in a random, disjointed way. I then had the job of turning the memories into the Jewish Voices book. What an experience that was, slotting the memories together to tell a story that had never before been told, about a tiny, self-contained community that experienced an enormous upheaval in the 1940s as families of Londoners poured into Leicester to escape the bombs. Together with refugees from Europe, they helped to create the large, diverse community that emerged from the war. The project website is Leicester Jewish Voices.
The format of this memory project can be used with all kinds of groups, not only religious communities. There are memories everywhere and if we don’t record them they’ll be lost forever... but if a memory project isn’t for you then at least give the writing exercise a try. You’ll be surprised at what emerges onto the page and, who knows, it could provide the spark for that next best seller.
Thanks so much for this lovely story, Ros! I'm dying of curiosity, so I'm going to ask all my readers this: If you could write about any personal memory or moments in history, what would it be?
Then, I just want to remind you all that I only have three GPF slots left for this year, so if you still want to post (about any writing/literary topic) on my blog, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Have a great weekend everyone!