29 July 2013

Memory on a Monday: Revived and Revised

First, the disclaimer.  This post will be similar to one I published here two weeks ago, but not the same.  I couldn't recover all the words, so I had to string most of them together all over again.  But since I didn't want to lose the ideas, and my little blog seemed like a good place to store them, I'm repeating myself a little.

It Takes Work 

It can be tough to get things to stick in your mind. That goes for my mind, too. The toughness of it discourages many people from even trying to memorize. My opinion, however, is that just about anybody can memorize something. Slowly, quickly, whatever. I watch my piano students do it all the time, even when they think they can't. I teach them how to memorize, and I require them to practice every day, and then they work like crazy to make it happen. So when people tell me they can't memorize--and I'm sorry if you're one of those who has told me that very thing--I don't believe them.  {insert teacher smile}  Because I just think it would be better to say, "Memorizing is hard for me."  Or, "I've never figured out a good way to make things stick in my mind."  Or, "I haven't had much success memorizing in the past, but I sure would like to try again."


There's just not a way around it.  For me, memorization takes repetition, and lots of it.  And let's face it:  we usually hear the word "repetition", and think BORING.  Sometimes that's true.  Repeating something over and over until it's stuck in your head for good, ready for recall at any given moment, can feel boring.  (Notice I said "feel".)  I will be the first to admit there are things that would bore me to tears to commit to memory.  However, if and when I'm memorizing a wonderful piece of music, I don't get bored.  The same should be true of when I'm memorizing a promise from the Bible, shouldn't it?  So if I am repeating some of the most profound words ever given to human beings and I feel bored, I have to take a moment, step back, and refocus.

Am I bored because I'm trying to rush through the words too quickly?
Am I bored because I'm not thinking about what the words mean as I repeat?
Am I bored because my memory verse is just another item on my list for the day?
Am I bored because I'm avoiding a challenge the verse introduces into my life?
Am I bored because I think I've heard the same old thing so many times it's no longer relevant?
Am I bored because I forgot to ask for the Holy Spirit to help me discern spiritual things?

 What I don't want is mindless, Spirit-less repetition.  I need desperately need repetition if I'm going to get something to stay in my brain, but it must be interested, alive repetition.

How I Repeat

When I memorize and repeat, I first take one verse at a time, or a smaller section within a verse.  I repeat it ten times to myself.  And to avoid the boredom I mentioned above, I try to notice key words and grammatical structures (like rhyming, assonance--matching vowel sounds--, alliteration, and the like) and imagine the scene (if it's from a story).  I find that after ten times, I can usually repeat the section or verse without looking and without hesitating.  If I take a verse a section at a time, I repeat the whole verse five times when I've learned each section.  Ten and five were random, except that I used to memorize on my morning walks with a miniature Bible in one hand.  I could count the repetitions with my fingers, and five and ten were obvious multiples of my fingers.


After the initial repetitions, I add a verse or chapter to my memory calendar to be regularly reviewed.  I've talked about that before.  I simply can't remember something if I only go over it one day and call it good.  It won't be in my mind if I don't keep it in my repertoire, so I try to be as intentional about the review process as I am about the initial repetitions.  I don't review the with the same number of repetitions each time, but things feel a lot more solid if I focus on it every few days.

Creative Repetition

Sometimes it feels like the above methods get me into a rut.  In fact, I feel a little that way at the moment.  So for me right now, and for those of you who need to get more creative than simply repeating something inside your head over and over and over....here's my brainstorming about how to spice up the memory process a little.  I haven't tried all of these ideas, but I probably ought to.  Because every time I do something a little different, the ideas stay in my head just a little more firmly.

1.  Say your memory verse out loud.  I'm a total chicken when it comes to this kind of thing, even when I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no one is nearby to hear my do it.  I guess I'm afraid of the sound of my own voice, or of being surprised by someone coming in the room when I don't expect it and finding me out.  I've learned with my piano practice, however, to sing aloud with my melody and count out loud, and I've found those practices to be incredibly helpful to my playing.  I have no reason to believe saying my memory verses out loud wouldn't have the same benefits.

 2.  Find or make a recording of your memory verse, and listen to it.  While driving.  While washing dishes.  While taking a shower.  While....you name it. If you're an auditory learner, you need to have some kind of repetition you can listen to.

3.  Find or write a song with the words of your memory verse.  Sing it a lot.  With your family, as you drive in the car, as you do chores around the house, as you pull weeds in the garden, as you try to go to sleep at night and your mind is taking that precious sleep time to figure out your life, as you wait in line at the grocery store.

 4.  Write your verse by hand.  Slowing your mind down enough to write with your hand can help focus or re-focus your mind on what the verse actually says.  It adds a physical motion to the memory work and repetition that helps things stay in my mind, at least, a little more firmly.  It doesn't matter if you keep the page or not--but if your verse is especially encouraging to you, it might be fun to write it out in a beautiful card and send it to a friend or family member who also needs a bit of encouragement.

5.  Scripture Typer.  While I haven't tried Scripture Typer, I have several friends who tell me they've loved it.  Typing out the verses is faster than writing them by hand, and yet it still adds a physical motion to the words they're working hard to remember.

6.  Think up some hand motions to go with key words in your verse.    There's a definition from my freshman music theory class in college I remember word for word to this day...along with the hand motions my [excellent] teacher put to it.  That was twelve years ago, and I never once reviewed that definition.  I think it's just there in my mind to stay, even without the repetition I've been saying I need so much.  Maybe I need to try this idea out soon for myself!

Thanks for coming back for the re-write!  And sorry for accidentally deleting this post without having it backed up.  My apologies to Marciwho left a sweet comment that also got deleted with the first posting of these thoughts.  Thanks, Marci, for reading!

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