Writing a memoir means searching for what one has forgotten. It is easy enough to remember the larger outline of a time that has passed, but it is regrettably impossible to recall the minutiae that capture the very essence of that former experience. Without these particulars, the memoir falls flat, for it fails to dwell upon those fleeting and seemingly insignificant moments that paradoxically capture the substance of what one is trying to replicate.
“When William Wordsworth, the nineteenth-century Romantic poet, was writing a memoir, he recognized this reality. In his autobiographical poem, The Prelude, he chose to isolate and assemble the little, unremembered acts from his past, what he called those “spots in time,” so he could depict the growth of his poetic mind.
There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue…
– William Wordsworth, The Prelude. Book 12. 208-218 (1850 edition)
So wrote Ann Colley, a guest columnist at Writer’s Digest, the link to her entire column is below.
“Spots in time” as Wordsworth calls them, the minute details of our experiences, are often eradicated by time. But, recollection of these “spots of time” may be prompted to more full resurrection by bringing the former period, or context, in which they happened more directly to mind with a reference to timeline of the same period. Seeing once more in the minds eye, the outer cultural tableau may, trigger a more exact memory.
Timelines are created by sequencing many “spots in time” together. Simple, generational timelines from 1860 – 2004 are offered in instantly downloadable PDF format at www.timelinewonk.blogspot.com
Extracting “spots of time” from timelines and adding them to your memoir may help the story craft of your writing by eliminating a hollow generalization.
Or, adding a “spot of time” from a timeline at the right point may turn the story arc which is heading toward intimate and introspective by referencing a well-known event, mood or conflict in the broader society. This adds a layer of cultural richness to your work.
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 Ann C. Colley, “Searching For The Forgotten”, Guest Column, May 22, 2018, WRITERS DIGEST, https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-genre/memoir-by-writing-genre/writing-a-memoir-forgotten-details