I stepped back in time recently when I took a trip to Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey. It is the place where I spent my summers from the time I was born until I was a young man. Many of the friends I've known for most of my life were there. On a Friday night we got together on a lawn by the lake, grilled food, sang old songs, and reminisced about the time we spent together. It was a wonderful break from my normal routine, but it was also a chance to recharge the many memories I draw on when I am writing.
Memoir writers draw their stories from the lives they have lived, but that is also true for those of us who write fiction. Even a novel like mine, which includes past lives and often focuses on the civil war era, draws most of its content from experience. Of course, the historical events had to be researched, but the research for the way people react in different circumstances came from living through events and watching others do the same. The process is similar to what an actor does when preparing for a role, but a writer does it for all the characters in his work. We all have weaknesses and strengths. Writers need to be able to filter out the ones our characters need.
Although the party by the lake was a great way to stimulate memories it was also a new memory. The friends I saw are wonderful people. It was great to talk to them and hear how they're doing. It was a good reminder that the most important aspect to the lives we live are the people we get to know along the way.