Writer’s Brain, Not Writer’s Block

[By Guest Blogger Randi Beck]

According to randomly chosen sources with important sounding names, these are the 10 most frequent warning signs of early memory loss:

  1. Disrupts daily life
  2. Problems planning or problem solving
  3. Difficulty completing tasks or managing a budget.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Difficulty judging distance, contrast, or color.
  6. Problems with words in writing or speaking, not sure how to finish what one is saying.
  7. Misplacement and difficulty retracing steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

Now. Read that list again and thing about writing a novel. Or a poem, essay, blog, to do list, or short story for that matter. Think about what it means to be a writer. Creepy, huh?

I’m not suggesting we’re all doomed to early onset Alzheimer’s (though it does run in my family and Sam can attest to my displaying a large number of the above “symptoms” on a daily basis.) What I’m saying is that memory is frustrating. But memory, I think, is also the writer’s golden ticket, like a shiny badge of specialness, or like a t-shirt that says “I’m with the band.” Though in this case, it would say “I’m allowed to have difficulty judging distance, contrast, and color in my characters.  I’m allowed to not be certain how to finish what I’m saying.  I’m allowed to let my characters display poor judgement. Because I’m a f*#@*ing writer, dammit.”

So where am I going with this? I forget.

Anyway, here’s my sage-spiced advice du jour:  For the writer, memory (or loss of it) means something more than a lost set of keys. It is repression, regret, remorse. It is love, panic, trauma, ecstasy. It is a temporary storage container.  Don’t think of it as forgetting, think of it as a UHaul into the next chapter of your life (or your book) where you can finally unload those memories and sort through them, and repack them, make money off of them, or attractively display them on a shelf with a doily.

These things are true of us and must be true of our characters if they are to be human beings and not paper dolls. But don’t think you have to tell the truth.  In fact, the acknowledgment that our memories may be fallacious, exaggerated, embittered with hatred, or disturbingly and unapologetically true, may tell more about the truth than the “facts.” And on the same note, let me say this before I change my mind about it’s validity:

Forgiving is not forgetting–whether it is for yourself or others.  Forgiveness is remembering, and being okay with that.

(Just a little something to put in your pocket. You can sneeze on it later if you wish, or paste it in your scrapbook.)

But enough philosophical BS. Whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, or experimental sonnets to be performed through interpretive dance, memory and what you have chosen to do with it or not do with it is important. For the author, for the character, for the reader. What do you remember? What do you pretend not to remember? What don’t you remember? And equally important: What will your reader remember about this thing you’ve insisted on telling them?

Tasks for today:

  1. Set alarm to wake up for morning writing.
  2. Forgive Randi Beck for late posting, but remember to use it against her later.
  3. Drink ginseng tea.
  4. Change your mind about ginseng tea. Drink coffee instead.
  5. Write in this order: Your earliest memory.  Your most recent memory. Something you wish you didn’t remember.  Discover why these things are irrevocably related to one another. Now do it for your protagonist if the protagonist is not yourself. Do it until even you believe it.
  6. Make a t-shirt that says: I’m a f*&#@ing writer

3 thoughts on “Writer’s Brain, Not Writer’s Block

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