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Recently, in talking to a friend about writing, I admitted feeling disappointed in the amount of time I’m dedicating to it. It’s disheartening, the understanding that I’m not cultivating a skill that I value so much; writing is the one of the very few things I have done consistently in my life, for just about as long as I can remember. As much as it ebbs and flows, it is always there, and I want to honor it.

His advice, of course, was to write. So I stopped what I was doing, and did just that. Even a few minutes helped ground me; it reminded me of this power of words, and I’m grateful for the kick in the pants.

As I wrote, I thought about an exercise that I’ve enjoyed doing throughout the years that is a quick and satisfying way to write. Ironically, I can’t remember where I first learned about it, but this is it: Set a timer for some amount of time, and, without stopping, compose a series of sentences that begin with the phrase “I remember.” If you get stuck, just write the prompt over and over again until something else comes out. Here’s a three minute version of mine:

I remember the smell of hot Italian streets, one summer when the World Cup was raging; people leaned on their horns while driving, celebrating a win. I remember the feel of thick Bermuda grass under my feet at my aunt’s house, the crunch and curl of the individual blades of grass. I remember taking a picture of a Jeep to send to my beloved, and then not sending it, because we’d broken up and I wasn’t supposed to want to, according to some custom of time and culture. I remember running hard in a high school field hockey game, going past the point of awareness. I remember peppermint ice cream in the summer in Texas. I remember rain pouring down one fourth of July, and I remember other things from that night that I will not say. I remember an argument with my sister in London, which seems so silly to me now, but I understand it too, an adult so grateful for our relationship. I remember hating coffee and beer and wine and I don’t remember when that changed. I remember a college roommate falling in a blanket towards the floor; how I love her still. I remember the way the light fell on a particular hammock, in the backyard of a house that was never fully clean. I remember my voice shaking, again and again, and using it anyway: for speeches, for readings, for words that needed to be aired that I was afraid to speak. I remember

Time’s up.

If anyone knows where this exercise comes from, please share! And if you’re one of my blogging friends, I challenge you to try the same (let me know if you do it – I’d love to read yours!). One word of advice: I didn’t want to stop at three minutes; I just wanted something succinct to post. I usually go for 10.

It’s a gorgeous day in Maryland, where I am visiting family and friends. There is a lot to distract me, yet I’m glad I sat down for a minute to post this. So, wherever you are right now, what is it that you remember, when you think about the life you have led, which is so uniquely and wonderfully your own?

I remember fried avocado tacos in Austin, where it was over 100 degrees for a week. I sat in the shade with a beer, in a tank top, and did not care about my sweat.

I remember a fried avocado taco in Austin, where it was over 100 degrees for a week. I sat in the shade with a beer, in a tank top, and did not care how much I sweat.

6 comments on “I remember…

  1. El Rolyat says:

    That is such a good idea. Thank you for sharing this – I am definitely going to try it out!

    1. Anna says:

      I hope you have fun with it! One of my favorite parts about this exercise is that it’s different every time. Please let me know if you post yours. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  2. I’m not sure where it originated, but this is usually called stream-of-consciousness writing. I first did it in college (20 years ago!). A boyfriend first told me to try it.

    Like you, lately I have been feeling like I haven’t been writing enough. And like you, every time I get back to it, even just for a short writing exercise, I feel better. I’ve been contemplating trying to take a writer’s retreat soon. Just a weekend. But I’m a little afraid I won’t write when I’ve actually set aside time to do so. Especially when I know I’ll want to go outside and explore.

    1. Anna says:

      You know, I’ve never thought of this as a type of stream-of-consciousness, but it absolutely is.

      I think a writing retreat sounds wonderful. I did one once – with The Sun magazine – which was great; being around other writers was really inspiring, and motivating. I’m guessing that, if you give yourself the chance (and the acceptance that you don’t have to write 24/7 for the retreat to be successful), it could be incredibly nourishing. Let me know how it goes!

  3. El Rolyat says:

    Hi Anna
    I have scheduled my ‘I Remember’ post for tomorrow, Throwback Thursday (for 06:00 UCT +2). I’m letting you know before hand because there is weather rolling in again and I may not have internet connection tomorrow. If I do have service I will post the link here once it is up 🙂

    1. Anna says:

      Great! I’ll look forward to seeing it – enjoy!

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