Remembering Remembered

Railway station clock with dark clouds.

Image: Petar Milošević (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As soon as I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt, I had a funny feeling I’d written about the same prompt before. Ironically, the prompt is “remember” and my first reaction was to plunge the depths of my own memory to find the post. I searched this site first, but came up empty, and then I checked my freelance writing site (

Success! And to increase the irony, I discovered that I wrote this post on March 21, 2012, one year ago yesterday.

One of my favorite paintings as a young adult was The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí. You might know it better as “that melting clock painting.” Years later, as I became I writer and started recalling my own memories, this painting took on a new meaning for me. I realized that memory is an ever-shifting  kaleidoscope of permanence and impermanence. I pictured it as Dalí’s painting, only in motion: the clocks melting and transforming into other things.  Call it the impersistence of memory.

In my book I am writing about my life: specifically a five year block beginning with Julia’s pregnancy and ending around the time my daughter turns four. I’ve been writing this book on and off for almost three years, and in the process I’ve discovered some important things about memory. Not being one to journal, I had to work mostly off my own recollections with a lot of help from Julia. I wanted to be accurate—otherwise I’d write a novel—but at first I found myself obsessing over details: exact sequences of events and specific dialogue for example.

Maybe it’s that my clock is more foggy than anything else, and sometimes the fog is so thick that I can’t even make out the hands. Yet I want to remember so I can tell the story better.

I go on to describe the four words I try to keep in mind as I write from memory—distance, detail, detachment, dialogue—and the three words I need to be on guard against—doubt, dishonesty, and denial. That all seven begin with the same letter is a great guide to remembering them.

And in the year since I wrote that post I completed the first draft, a major revision, a beta read, and another major revision. Now the manuscript is in the hands of a professional line editor and within a month will be ready to sell to a publisher.

For those of you reading this who are writers, I cannot recommend those seven d-words enough.

The four to keep in mind.

  • Distance
  • Detail
  • Detachment
  • Dialogue

And the three to be on guard against.

  • Doubt
  • Dishonesty
  • Denial

Please read more here, as my five minutes are up!

Five Minute Friday

3 thoughts on “Remembering Remembered

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