Mining Your Memory  

Most material is reformed autobiographical experience.  We write about a frightening thing that happened to us as a child, what happened last week, our own psychological nature is often manifested in the content and shape of our work.  Even if a story or poem comes from something read, overheard, or observed, it is still transformed as it passes through the screen of your mind.  Based on these assumptions, the first three exercises, which you should record in your journal, will help you reexplore your own life, looking for material for fiction, poetry, and essays.    


    I.  Stephen Trimball, author of Words from the Land, says that writers have experiences both in the field and at their writing desks.  The border between experience and meditation is fuzzy; we evaluate as we experience and we transform the experience as we write, sometimes exploring completely new sensations.  To remind you to think about your life as material for writing, complete the exercise described below.  What you record in this exercise could turn into a new essay, story, or poem.


Journal Exercise C: Mining for places, people, events and values

For each of the following phrases, write a sentence about something in your past.  Later these sentences could be expanded to paragraphs or pages in a story, poem or essay.



    a place heavy with memory    

    a place you've traveled to     

    a place where some trouble happened    

    a place where a family story happened                




    a person who has influenced you

    a sticky relationship

    an interesting character

    a group you’ve served in some way


Tell the story of:

    a first (first kiss, first time to drive the car)

    a difficult decision

    a rite of passage            

    an embarrassing moment


Speculate on:

    your code for getting by (for example, “I don’t sweat the little stuff.”)

    how your values were formed

    what bothers you in society (for example, pollution, politicians, hypocrisy)

    what you like about living in this time in history