Nonfiction Writing exercises

Writing Exercise: Flashbulb Memories

On the 1 year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings and Nelson Mandela’s funeral… this is an interesting writing exercise to do!

When you can close your eyes and picture yourself back in a moment as if it just occurred (regardless of how long ago it really happened) it is called a “flashbulb memory”. Cognitive psychologists named it that for the memory’s vivid, picture-like quality. They are usually memories of highly emotional events. When you recall a flashbulb memory you remember all the sensations and emotions associated with the memory. Common flashbulb memories are of historical events such as JFK’s assassination or 9/11. They can also be personal events, such as one’s wedding day or birth of a child.

Describe one of your own flashbulb memories. Describe the event. What is your memory of the event? What do you remember seeing, hearing, and feeling? What were your emotions and thoughts about the event at the time? Writing about this memory will be an interesting read for family, friends and even yourself in the future. So you may want to do this exercise several times for all the important historical world events so that you and others can be reminded of where you were and how you felt on that day.

Please tell us what you think about this exercise below. What historical or personal flashbulb memory did you choose to write about?

Nonfiction Writing exercises

Writing Exercise: First Memories

Created by Kara Bopp (co-founder of Living Words)

We all know that babies from a very young age can remember. For example, they remember family members – even in the first week of life they remember what Mom and Dad look like! When they are a couple of months old they remember what their crib looks like and smile at familiar toys. But for some reason as adults we cannot remember anything from before the age of about 4 or 5. This phenomenon is called “infantile amnesia”. The age of one’s first memory varies from person to person (some research has shown it may be related to one’s verbal intelligence). There are all sorts of theories for infantile amnesia… but that’s not the point of this exercise.

What is your FIRST MEMORY? This simple question may produce a lot of written responses. Write down your “first” memory, but allow yourself to remember back to those years and you might find that you remember an even earlier memory.

Most people tend to remember highly emotional events – either very positive ones (like birth of a sibling) or negative ones (like going to the ER for a broken arm). Although some people remember benign everyday experiences. It is sometimes difficult to put a date on a memory. It can also be difficult to be sure that it is your own memory and not just information you learned as an adult through stories or by looking at pictures.

Right NOW write down what you believe is your first memory. Describe it in as much detail as possible. What do you see, hear, feel? What were your thoughts at the time? Do you see this event from the perspective of your own eyes or from the perspective of a viewer (e.g. floating above the scene)? Are you sure that it is truly your own memory or is it possible that you learned about this or imagined it later in life? When did the event occur? How old were you? What about the memory gives you clues about the date?

Repeat this exercise if you remember an earlier “first” memory!

As always, we would love to hear from you in the comments below!