Memoir Writing: No. 2 Taking Notes

Wallowing in the past can be great fun.

Thumbing through journals can enlighten and horrify.

Writing in Tokyo on my way to Viet-Nam, I observed: “Smog is very bad. I see why eight people died here in August.”

Reading old letters brings back the old times.

A postcard I sent to a girl friend (later my wife) reported: “Thing are quite a bit more expensive than I had planned, thus I am cutting everything short.”

Newspaper clippings take snapshots in time.

Richard Nixon said on March 6, 1970, “No American stationed in Laos has ever been killed in ground combat operations.” Two days later, he corrected that to say seven had died. (History books record the correct number as 27.)

Old photos produce giggles.

DLH-cu_EK_0176 copy

Me in 1970

The smirk on my face was caused by chewing on a toothpick, something I still do.

Enjoy the stroll down memory lane. It will spark other memories, and they may be needed down the line.

But there’s work to be done. This isn’t a lark. This is memoir writing.

You have to take notes as you wallow.

Let me repeat: You have to take notes.

Otherwise, you will find yourself rereading those journals and letters and clippings and trying to find that one priceless photo that spoke a thousand words.

How you take notes and where you keep them is up to you. Whatever works for you is what works. But you have to take notes.

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