Writing As a Way to Remember

Painting of a girl in white turned with her back to us writing at a desk

Memories are some of our most precious possessions. But as the years march by, they fade.

Writing can help us preserve memories. Returning to our journals, notebooks, poems, or posts years later can resurrect time from the abyss of forgetfulness.

By the time you will be in your 80s—and keep in mind that life expectancy will likely increase in the coming decades—you could lose as much as 20% of the nerve connections in your hippocampus, and that’s bad for your memory.

Also, even significant memories we don’t often recall may start to fade from our brains within 10 years or so after they are first stored.

Like other parts of our brain, memory too prunes itself away.

Writing down our memories isn’t a simple process of transcription. It’s fun because it is to some extent a creative process.

We don’t remember as computers do, byte after byte. We embellish our memories, alter them, change details.

“S(he) was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”

― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Each time we remember, we confabulate. That is, memories become labile and subject to change.

A great testament to the power of writing to remember is Marcel Proust wrote to remember in his In Search of Lost Time. (Okay, I only read the first volume.)

Writing down our memories, the big ones and the small ones, the dreams we want to remember, the little daily incidents that gladden us by surprise, is a way not to lose time, not to have to rummage for it in the mothy drawers of our memory.

It’s a way to preserve it and be able to return to it.

Even a few notes, a few sentences can provide enough cues for us to remember a faraway memory that otherwise would have lost its way in the tangle of neurons within our brains.

Whether you do it through journaling, poetry, stories, or notes, whether you do it every day or only once or twice a month, write as a way to remember.

You don’t have to be a writer to do this.

Only a human being who knows that memories are the stuff we’re made of.

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”

― John Banville, The Sea

9 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Your Body

Do you have a body? Or does your body have you?

Either way, I’ve put together a few facts about our bodies that I find interesting and worth the few minutes that you will spend reading this post.

But let me warn you: some of them may make you uneasy!

Fact: 95% of our decisions are made unconsciously.

I tend to spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of my decisions. So that for my part, I find this fact liberating. Yes, we do use slow thinking to analyze our more important decisions, but life consists of endless choices. Our brains give us a break by making these choices for us, at least most of the time.

Fact: Our brains plan an action about one-fifth of a second before we consciously decide to perform that action.

Does this one make you feel uneasy? I don’t know if it denies free will. But I’d think twice before telling anyone that I’m the sum of my decisions.

Fact: 90% of the cells in our bodies are bacteria.

The good sort of bacteria, I should add. That is, bacteria that sustain our continued existence on this planet rather than subvert it.

Fact: A woman’s heart typically beats faster than a man’s ( around 78 beats per minute compared to only 70).

Do men have lazier hearts? Maybe. Does this affect in any way our love potential? Unlikely since we love with our brains more than with any other (internal) organs.

Fact: Up to 60% of addiction risk stems from genetic factors.

I’ll try to remember this next time I’m tempted to look down on someone who has a drinking or drug problem. My father had drinking problems. For my part, I’m trying to be careful about it. For now, the only drinking problem I have is having too much tea sometimes.

Fact: Women feel pain more intensely than men because they have more nerve receptors in their bodies.

Wasn’t Bob Dylan right when he said, “Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.”?

Fact: The average human attention span is just 8 seconds.

That’s less than a goldfish. And with all the information overload and distractions we’re having in our times, this is likely going to keep going down. But we can improve our concentration by getting proper sleep, meditating, eating well, exercising, and so on.

Fact: We spend about 2 hours every night dreaming.

We don’t remember most of our dreams, but that doesn’t mean we don’t dream! Dreams could be memory or creative aides, or they could help our brains cope with life traumas. You can read more about the role of dreams.

Fact: You have fewer genes than an onion—around 20,000 compared to 100,000.

Remember this next time an onion makes you cry?


Our bodies are amazing. And quite weird, too!

There’s a vast world within us, and it’s every bit as fascinating as the world outside us, don’t you think?

All facts taken from:

How the Body Works, Dorling Kindersley, 2016

How the Brain Works, Dorling Kindersley, 2020

All images copyright Fernando Vicente. Check out his wonderful work on his website.

Summer in 19th Century Painting

If you have a moment, let us take a stroll through the world of painting and experience summer as the artists of the 19th century saw it, from Edouard Manet to Edward Charles Williams.

The following paintings all evoke summer in one way or other, even if summer was not necessarily their chief subject.

Some of them remind us that summer was not a season of ease for everyone. Others will make us wonder whether those hatted and parasoled women were not a little warm under their very proper dresses.

Step by step, picture by picture, let us begin.

(Click on an image to enlarge it.)

Do you have a favorite? Why?