Place: Reflective Memoirs

Memoirs of Place

Place is a part of every memoir because it is the context for every life (e.g., your home, school, community, county, city, state, or country).

Place is very significant for childhood and family memories.

WRITE: Do some timed freewriting (e.g., five minutes) and list some places of importance to your life. Then list some places you’ve traveled to for an additional five minutes.

Now select one of these places, and list your sense impressions (e.g., sensory details about the place). Then read the list to yourself and remember more intricate details.

Repeat this process with other places from your memory that are important to your life.

WRITE: Make a list of places you have traveled to. Why did you decide to go there? Use sense descriptions to give your reasoning.

Truly reflect deeply on these places and what you experienced there with consciousness.

WRITE: Let’s do some guided mindfulness. Read through the list of images below and see if any trigger a memory for you. Stare at the words. Let them absorb you. Read them aloud. Then, if/when a word triggers a memory for you, write it down and its meaning for you:


Slowly complete this exercise prior to moving forward with the workshop.

WRITE: Brainstorm to find one word of importance to summate your life. Write it down. Stare at it. Read it aloud; allow it to consume you. Then free write about the importance this word has in your memory. 

What does this word communicate regarding you and your life? Does it render an alternative meaning now rather than it did in the past? Continuously repeating this exercise will aid you in progressing with your memoir regardless of the direction your memoir is headed in.

Now, take personal inventory.

Are you where you want to be with your memoir writing? Which writings have the most promise? What else do you want to include? Is your writing a revelation of who you truly are? Have you gained some knowledge of self?

Whatever you have written is a gift to yourself, whether or not you complete your memoir.

If you do complete it, think about how you may want to share your gift with others:

  • Click here to find 19 Websites and Magazines That Want to Publish Your Personal Essays
  • Click here to find 5 Tips for Getting Your Memoir Published in 2016
  • For DIY purposes, click here to find The Key to Self-Publishing Your Memoir: Be Confident with Your Story!

That is the last part of this online retreat workshop. Great Job!


Your Story: Family of Origin Memoirs

Recall your childhood moments:

  • Favorite children’s book, possession, or toy.
  • Most and/or least favorite relative.
    • Why? Describe their characteristics.
  • Moment of childhood triumph and/or humiliation.
    • Use sense memory to gather details which correspond with your feelings.
  • Favorite family celebrations
    • (e.g., Thanksgiving, Xmas, birthday parties, All Hallows’ Eve, etc).
    • Remember details, conflicts and resolutions.
  • Closest childhood friend. Describe them with as much detail as you can muster.
    • What commonalities did you share? Were there any major differences?

WRITE: Do some guided memory writing. Begin to write as much as possible; push through each step of the process of remembering your life’s moments.

  • What is your most important childhood memory?
  • What’s your reflection about this memory (e.g., consciousness)?
  • What’s your “survivor sense” (i.e., “I lived through it.”)
  • How does this experience fit into your identity formation?
  • Identify any tension or conflict in this memory.
  • How does this particular memory connect with your other memories?
    • Is there a meaningful pattern emerging?

Now, take some inventory of your writing. Any reactions? Would you like to continue in the direction you have been headed? Or, do you have better ideas now? 

WRITE: Free write daily (e.g., 10-15 minutes). Remember to involve your memory and your imagination and write about various memorable members of your family (i.e., include their characteristics, sayings, mannerisms, attire, demeanor, etc.).

Then review all your writings. Is your memoir taking shape? If not, that is perfectly okay; continue freewriting, clustering and using whatever other techniques that help you to recall your memories.

WRITE: What early childhood moments stand out in your memory? Write about one or more of those memories and reflect.

Just Keep Writing. Just Keep Writing.

All memoirs interweave the strands of the past and present to uncover the writer’s inner and outer layers at the moment of their memoir’s focus.

Now, work in earnest by exploring your inner and outer layers via as much freewriting as feasible for you. Try to do 10-15 minute spurts of freewriting several times a week or as your schedule permits.

WRITE: Choose another moment from your life review. Start with a topic sentence, and freewrite for 10-15 minutes. Continue to do this to bring more insight to light.

Allow your imagination to roam freely. Do not worry about being factual as much as being truthful when writing your memoir.

Perhaps you’ll find it helpful to interview yourself (e.g., write your questions and answers with two different pens in each hand). Then you can even thank yourself for the interview and suggest the possibility of “meeting” again at a later time.

Much can be surfaced through this exercise; you can do it repeatedly to unlock your memories and uncover insights about the moments of meaning in your life.

WRITE: Try the cluster technique with any memory you have:

Start with a blank sheet of paper or blank document.

In the center of it, write the focus of the memory you want to expand on (e.g.,  your first day in college).

Draw lines out in all directions from the center and write at the end of each line a detail of that day: descriptions of some of your fellow classmates, of the instructors, of your roommates, of the room, of the activities you did that day on campus.

Cluster from any of those details in order to reveal more details.

For example, cluster some details about your roommates. How many did you have? Did you live on campus or off campus? Did you have the room to yourself? Did anyone have pets? Was it spacious or cramped? Continue clustering as you recall more details.

Perhaps you’ll find it helpful to use sense memory to recall the events of that day; for instance, the smell of the room, the art on the walls, the sounds of your roommate’s music playing.

Now, select a memory of salience for you and cluster all the details you can recall of it.

WRITE: Now try writing a mini-memoir so you can get the feel of how simple writing a memoir can be. This mini-memoir will be just a paragraph:

  • line 1 ) I am … (first name)
  • line 2 ) I am … (other names- middle, last, nickname, pen name)
  • line 3 ) I am …three self-describing adjectives
  • line 4 ) I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.
  • line 5 ) I love … (anything)
  • line 6 ) I hate … (anything)
  • line 7 ) I am afraid … (of anything)
  • line 8 ) I wish for … (anything)
  • line 9 ) I am … (give small insight into yourself)

WRITE: Take each line, and expand on it. Pay close attention to line 7.

So, the title of this part of the retreat workshop is “Just Keep Writing.” Take time to do some personal inventory. How much have you completed thus far? Can you resolve to freewrite more in order to stir your memory? Or, are you prepared to move forward to your memoir’s development?

Finish by spending time in reflection on your life.


Recalling The Past

Now, give utterance to the voice inside yourself by recalling your memories.

WRITE: List members of your family you want to include in your memoir. These people should have been or currently be part of your life’s sacred journey. Remind yourself of a story about one of these family members that you want to include in your writing. Then do some freewriting about this person for 10-30 minutes.

WRITE: Start by quieting yourself; deeply breathe, close your eyes, search inside yourself and into your life. After reflecting and allowing a memory to surface, jot down that memory. Perhaps it’s an ordinary moment in your life but, as you look back on it, recognize that even in the smallest ways how it has extraordinarily affected you!

Memory and perspective on memory are the foundations of any memoir; to be alive is to remember and to be affected by your memories.

You have already done some free writing; safeguard every scrap of this writing.

The only way to create a memoir is to keep writing; they must be accumulated by memory.

WRITE: Life Review Timeline

Your life story has a power all of its own; taking inventory of the events that shape your story is therapeutic at any age.

Block your page horizontally into as many or as few decades of your life that you’d like to tackle in your memoir. Then list the key  turning points of your life and place them in their appropriate decades.

Lastly, select and circle two or three key moments that you are most interested in at this juncture in your life. Consider these to be your “energy points.” Remember these for future reference.

This life review will take time so, as time permits, work on it periodically.

WRITE: Do timed freewriting about a turning point in your life.

Choose one moment from your Life Review Timeline that is most salient for you or evokes the most intense feeling for you. (This is an “energy point”, which may jump-start your memory).

Now, take this moment and “free write” about it. List as many facts and details as you can recall. Utilize your sense memory: recall what things looked like, sounded like, smelled like, tasted like, and felt like.

This may take a while, so refrain from procrastination.

WRITE: Now, reexamine the moment you just wrote about. Consider its salience for you now. Via continued freewriting, remember the context of the moment at the time in which you experienced it and definitively determine why it was truly a turning point for you.

For example, what emotional, physical, psychological and/or spiritual feelings were associated with your experience at that time? How exactly were your family members involved? What other events occurred within your community, city, state and the rest of the world simultaneously?

Upon completion of the writing you have done here in Part 4, you should have much to think about for your memoir’s content.


Wise Writing


The best practice for exposing your memories is to start with timed “free” writing.

Free (i.e.,“flow”) writing will help you to uncover your memories from your mind and imagination by moving them into words.

You’ll write as quickly as possible meanwhile expressing your thoughts with any words that occur to you; this will aid in surfacing your memories and determine your writing stamina for a short period of time.


1. Always start writing with a specific phrase or topic sentence in mind; begin asap with one key idea.
2. Do not stare at blank pages! Continue writing (i.e., doodle if you must).
3. Write in lists of words, images, quotes or phrases; more details will surface as you write.
4. Lose control! Do not be politically correct here. Write what you want without much conscious thinking. Basically, just say something that means something to you!
5. Be specific (e.g. use the word puppy rather than animal, in fact, not puppy, rather three-month-old red nose pitbull, etc.).
6. Do not edit yourself while writing! Nothing fancy is allowed! Later you can make the necessary corrections (e.g., grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.) but not at this time!

WRITE: List as many memories as possible that you can recall inside your notebook within a ten-minute writing session. Then look at your list when finished. Identify the direction that your memories are taking you. When/if you are ready, determine the direction your memoir might go in. (You will have ample opportunities to write and reflect, so don’t fret if you are still uncertain).

WRITE: Focus your memory on a particular turning point in your life. Center a focused question around that memory. Free write from that question for the amount of time you specify (e.g. 10, 15 or 20 minutes):

  • Chose a vivid memory of an episode in your life.
  • Who was I at this particular time? What was I truly like?
  • What were my surroundings like at the time? Who else was present?
  • What happened and why did it happen?
  • What am I forgetting? What have I chosen not to remember?

You could complete this writing exercise with any number of your memories; you can build up your memoir with this. 

WRITE: Free write about any number of incidents from your life:
Recall an incident from your childhood when you received punishment for doing something you were not supposed to do. What happened? Who was there? As you recollect, did the punishment effect your character?
Only spend 5 minutes on this exercise, hence rush writing. Get as much written as possible and do not forget to leave space, so you can complete this later.

Take a deep breath, stretch, and relax.


Sense Memory and Imagery

Gander at your imagination as it relates to memory.

Getting in touch with sensual experiences can often trigger a whole host of memories; the sense of smell triggers memory quickest.

So, take time to imagine the following smells: bleach, burning candle wax, cabbage, cigarette smoke, cologne or perfume, freshly-baked cake, deep fried fish, oranges, peanut butter, petrichor, popcorn, the Scratch ‘N Sniff stickers you may have used in grade school. Do any of these smells trigger a special memory for you?

WRITE: Remember an odor (e.g., fragrant or pungent) in the earliest memory you wrote about from our last post. List a few terms that will vividly describe this odor. Continue writing and discern how the odor triggers more memories.

We have words to help define these images of sensual experiences from our memory, so we can evoke them in our imagination and utilize them to set the base for structuring our stories.

WRITE: Calm yourself and when you are comfortable, close your eyes. Imagine the setting where your early memory occurred. Then list every sight, smell and sound you can recall. Stay with this memory as long as you can continue to become more aware of the sense impressions in which that memory has created.

Take a quick break & stretch!

Now, try uncovering your experiences via imagery. Recollecting the images of your childhood and then remembering them as an adult can offer bits of wisdom. Memoir writing will bring about some true insight.

WRITE: Make a list of occasions or situations in your life that are especially memorable to you today. Choose the times in your life that you wish to make the particular focal point. Limit your recollection to specific moments in time such as:

  • childhood
  • family
  • friends
  • school (e.g., grade, high, undergrad, postgraduate)
  • work
  • marriage
  • pregnancy/adoption
  • children/no children
  • home
  • community involvement
  • retirement
  • travel 

Now that more memories are surfacing, stay open minded and be easy on yourself.

Know Thyself


Identity is shaped by your memories; they connect your past to your present.

Memoir writing makes you more visible to yourself and to others (e.g., your privileged readers). Emotional, historical and/or physical visibility may occur.

You can begin anywhere, at any time, and although there may be a lack of perspective with respect to age, that should not inhibit anyone from having retrospect.

Every idea or memory can lead toward the next, unfolding a unique story; thus providing you with some valuable insight on your life.


Tell me your story: Begin this online writing retreat workshop by unlocking the memories that have shaped your life, such as disappointments, experiences, ideas, locations, people, etc.

Any memories can be the focus of your memoir writing.

To begin this retreat workshop you should prepare to relax, reflect and WRITE.

You’ll write down memories or anecdotes as they occur to you; you’ll be given suggestions for recalling and scrivening as you complete this retreat workshop.

As you’ll capture your own particular life experiences and discern their significance, you’ll be both the author and subject of your work.

In writing your memoir, you’ll be writing solely about selected features or parts of your life. A memoir is not equivalent of a autobiography; which involves both factual and historical information of your complete life.

Decide on a method that is most cozy and fitting for you to write.

  • Perhaps you want to do your writing in notebooks (ideally some with binding) or in a word processing program on a document set up on your computer for this purpose.
  • Also, you may find it helpful to print out this retreat workshop for easier future reference.

When you are prepared to write, designate a place and time that is hushed for you.

To set a relaxed ambience, you might prefer to keep a candle lit as you mull over your life and write. If possible, look at your own reflection, pat yourself on the back and encourage yourself to start writing!


Begin by writing, lettering, or typing your name; you can choose all or some or one of your names.

Then place a circle or box around your name(s); which can be representative of all that surrounds you (e.g., family, home, nature, pets, etc.).

Now, earnestly study your name.

Move into the writing process by using phonetics to sound out your name several times with your mouth.

Do you like your name? Is there a reason why you were given that name? Have you changed your name? If so, then why? What does your name mean? What do you feel it communicates to others? What phrases or words does it bring to mind? What about nicknames or pen names? Do you have any? Why or why not? Do they hold any special meanings for you? How about your screen name? Why did you choose that one to use when communicating with others online?

Respect and cherish your name!

A name is paramount. It says something about who you are or who you wish to become.

Consider this: what ever would we do if we did not have names? How much more difficult would it be to navigate our world or our destiny to manifestation?

Your name is your mark, your reputation; it identifies you.

Now that you have reflected on your name(s), begin to ponder your memories regarding your life.

Open your notebook or your document and commence writing!

WRITE: Recount your earliest memory in a few words. Does this memory give you any insights into yourself?

Start to gather all the writing suggestions given in this retreat workshop and by the end you’ll have your own memoir!