Unless a certain scent or taste or sound triggers us, we don’t often return to our memories. We don’t often look back and explore our past. Today, we’re all about focusing on the present moment, on the here and now. Which, of course, is important. But excavating fond memories is important, too. Because these memories make up who we are. They reveal our differing, fascinating parts. They explain why we are who we are.
Plus, exploring childhood memories is great for inspiring our creative work. According to mixed-media artist Jane Dunnewold in the thoughtful and wonderful resource Creative Strength Training: Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius, “Writing about childhood memories is a good way to shake up your mental and emotional equilibrium; loosening images and ideas can transform them into content for artwork.” (And I’d add any work.)
Dunnewold includes a great exercise for exploring our memory. In the first part, she suggests writing about the first cloth you remember, including how old you were; where it came from; who it belonged to; who made it; why you remember it; and why it’s significant. Or write about a piece of clothing, either your earliest memory of the garment or your favorite garment. In the second part of the exercise, draw a picture of a favorite room that you grew up in. After you’re done, write about the room, including why you loved it.
Below are several other ways to explore your memory.
- Write about your three favorite scents from childhood.
- Write about your three favorite tastes from childhood.
- Write about your three favorite sounds from childhood.
- Write about your three favorite sights from childhood.
- Write about your first day of school at any age.
- Write about a time you couldn’t stop laughing.
- Record yourself singing a favorite song from your past.
- Record yourself recounting everything you can remember from your 13th birthday.
- Interview one of your family members about the silliest memory they have of you as a child. Ask them about the silliest memory they have about themselves.
- Take photos from different angles of a place that was meaningful to you as a child or young adult.
- Write or draw something you don’t want to forget.
- Go around your home, and make a list of objects from your past that are especially meaningful to you. Pick a different object every week, and write about its significance. Or create a scrapbook: Take a photo of each object. Develop the photo. Tape it into your scrapbook, and write a short description about its importance. Do the same for the other objects.
I know that many of our memories aren’t pleasant. Many are painful and devastating. And we’d rather not go there. We’d rather not relive them. So don’t. Revisit only the memories that are positively meaningful to you, the ones that make you smile or laugh, the ones that remind you of something magical you never want to forget.
It’s totally up to you. It’s always up to you.