I Don’t Remember

May 20, 2014  Prompt #20

IMG_0620 Today’s prompt turns yesterday’s “I Remember” exercise on its head.  “I Don’t Remember” motivates you to write about loss,  failure of memory, and what we repress. Use it to remember, connect, and observe.  When I’ve taught this exercise in my workshops, there’s often a lightheartedness about what our mind chooses to remember and what it forgets. Go deep, go playful, go write.



  1. On a sheet of paper, write the phrase I don’t remember on the left side of the first line.  Skip three lines and write it again.  Repeat this until you’ve written I don’t remember twelve times. (Start a new sheet or write on the back if you need more room.)
  2. Next, fill in the blank spaces after I don’t remember with a sentence, phrase, or even a single word. For example, I don’t remember when I stopped climbing trees.  I don’t remember the last time I spoke to my brother.  I don’t remember what bus driver looked like.
  3. Work your way down the list, writing for 15 to 20 minutes.

Notes (same as yesterday’s notes.)

  • Pay attention to the sound of your words, their collective rhythm and pacing. Try varying short and long responses.
  • This exercise can create a stand-alone list poem or several spring boards for short stories, flash fiction, and narrative poems.
  • Try reading the finished piece aloud. What do you notice?

Further Writing

  • Try interspersing this sequence once or twice, I don’t remember _________, but I do remember  ______________.
  • Include specific details. Here’s one from Brainard’s book: ” I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.”

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Choose one of your completed I don’t remember lines and expand upon it.
  2. Work in a simile. “I don’t remember why I gave away the rag wool sweater, red as the geraniums that lined our front bed, thick as the weeds that tried to choke them.

Thoughts on this writing prompt?


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