Mining The Memory

‘Almost invariably, the beginning writer views his life as dull. The opposite is true – your own life is teeming with incident and emotion. Train yourself to identify and store away for future use the odd, funny, sad and suspenseful things that happen to you’. Bernays and Painter (1991 :28).

I was lucky enough to receive What If? Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter as a gift and have since enjoyed the exercises it contains. One of which is ‘mining the memory’ where over the past week I wrote down two lists of events that both made me happy and made me sad. The objective of which was to ‘…practice viewing [my] immediate world as a garden full of fictional seeds’ (Ibid: 28). So, just for you, here are the seeds to my fictional, immediate world:


Things that made me happy:

1- Arriving at the office on Monday morning after a week off sick to colleagues asking after my welfare, which intentionally or not made me feel part of the team (an unusual occurrence).

2- Feeling loved  by my husband on Valentine’s Day (and indeed throughout the week).

3- Solely fixing problems at work, giving me increased confidence in my capabilities.

4- Going to bed early enough on a work night to read a book in bed.

5- The hope of a new job.

6- Listening to my favourite music.

7- Fixing a piece of equipment at work in such a way that would make my father (the DIY King) proud.

8- My family and the special, unique connections I share with them.


Things that made me sad:

1- Succumbing to the need (and temptation) of comfort eating on the all so dangerous chocolate digestives at work.

2- (possibly linked to number one, above) – feeling stressed at work.

3- Being unfairly blamed for something I did not do at work and subsequently not sticking up for myself.

4- Being faced with the confusion of either staying in my current job or applying for a new one; the division of loyalty.

5- Feeling lonely at work.

6- The anniversary of my father losing his fight against Cancer.


This exercise gave me time to appreciate the good things in my life and face the bad things that if left ‘unattended’ will grow into weeds that strangle and ultimately kill the  ‘good things’ growing in my fictional garden. It has also  bought home that despite what it may seem, I do actually have more good things in my life than are bad.

From now on when I catch myself drowning in self-pity, I will get out my notebook and pen and remind myself of what I have in my life to be thankful for.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. grandmac
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 12:36:56

    Maybe we should all do that on a weekly basis! It isn’t until you write them down that you appreciate the good things in your own life.
    The sad things are easy to remember, but it is sometimes hard to be thankful for all the wonderful things as we take them for granted,
    or wish for more. I am certainly guilty of that. So I will write down my own list of good things every week…if I remember!


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