What I don’t remember

An entry from Books on the Brain inspired this post. I read Lisa’s response to a writing challenge from Natalie Goldberg’s new book Old Friend from Far Away. The challenge is to write for 10 minutes about what you don’t remember. How is this possible? Check out Lisa’s list.

The book, Old Friend, which inspired the exercise, is about writing memoirs, something I’ve never given a moment’s thought to. My childhood is a gray blur. It doesn’t conjur up a lot of cozy memories, no eccentric great aunts, plump doting grandmothers, homemade apple pie. 

Nothing terrible happened; just seemed like nothing happened. So this was an especially challenging exercise. But it caught my attention and I grabbed my writing notebook as I ran into town to do errands. I thought it was 10 things to write, but it was 10 minutes. After 30 minutes I only had 3 things on my ‘non-remembering’ list, but twice as many remembrances came floating to the surface.

What a brilliant exercise! Kinda’ like – ‘don’t think of chocolate for 5 minutes’. Then all you can do is think of chocolate. Not the same thing, but it just illustrates another way of how odd our brains are wired.

But here’s my list so far:

  1. I don’t remember my first, or any, birthday party.
  2. I don’t remember falling down the basement stairs and knocking my two front teeth clear back into my gums (age 2 or 3). I do remember not having any front teeth until I was 8.
  3. I don’t remember any laptime with my mother or father; how is that possible? Having had 3 kids and now going on 5 grandkids, laps and kids are inseparable.

There must be more I don’t remember, but I can’t remember what it is.

The following quote from a review of Old Friend from Far Away has me adding this to my Books I want to Read List.  “…her trademark workshop style with its terse, demanding writing sprints that train the hand and mind to quicken their pace and give up conscious control. These exercises divert the eye from the obvious and redirect it to the tactile details we miss, the embarrassments we pass over, and the complications we overlook in the blur of everyday living. Goldberg writes, No one says it, but writing induces the state of love. Old Friend from Far Away guides us into that state of love, where heightened attention and a rhythm of focus allow the patterns and details of the past to emerge on the page.

Natalie Goldberg also wrote Writing Down the Bones which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet. 



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. lisamm
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 00:10:39

    I love your analogy of “Don’t think about chocolate for 5 minutes” That’s really the way it went for me too. Love your post.. thanks for playing along.


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