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I was preparing a story for an evening of story telling in Norfolk, about experiencing the San Francisco earthquake of 1989. I decided to spark my memories of that time by looking at YouTube videos of coverage of the quake. Surprisingly, the videos put me in the same state of panic I experienced at that time, the butterflies, the dry mouth and cold sweat…

It got me to thinking of various ways one could trigger memories to use as starting points for personal stories. So here are some questions and ideas for brainstorming:

  1. Search for YouTube videos of a memorable event from your life or from the same time period. What was happening for you at the time of those videos?
  2. Who were the people that changed your life, or got you to think in entirely new ways? You may have met them in school, at work, while travelling, or in the most unlikely places.
  3. If someone asked “Where were you when…” – what momentous event would be the end of that sentence for you? A natural disaster? A historical moment? An incident like the 7/7 London tube bomb? Or simply when a child was born?
  4. What were some of the funniest moments of your life?
  5. What were the scariest moments of your life?
  6. Is there an incident during which you felt you had a lightening bolt of understanding? When you felt you had a sudden revelation (big or small)? What triggered it?
  7. Did something that you thought was a failure eventually lead to a success?
  8. What are some of the greatest lessons of your life? What are the stories of how you learned them?
  9. Interesting things happen when we travel! Look at pictures from your travels and see if they spark good anecdotes: lessons learned, cultures encountered, people, or the unexpected.
  10. Look at family and childhood pictures. Do they remind you of unique characters in your family? Can you think of stories that describe them, their quirks, their accomplishments, etc.? Why did this uncle, cousin, or grandparent make such an impression on you?
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