The Importance of Memory

In his lecture Mr. Reid also spoke of the importance of memory. He did it in this way. He said, go forth and brainstorm, writers. He showed us a page with words spread across it like paint. Then he said, go home and go to sleep. Go about your daily business. Come back and start over. Write it all down again.

Now some writers say that it is important to make note of any idea. They walk about with scraps of paper falling out of their pockets. They take time out from conversations to write down tasty bits. You may have seen these writers in Starbucks, observing you over the edge of their laptops. What they are writing is very important, I assure you.

I agree with Mr. Reid. The human brain is, without exception, the most advanced, impressive organ/machine ever seen on our planet. The most amazing thing about it is that we all have one. The second most amazing thing is how it works. Everything that I have experienced in life is in there, along with every thought I have ever had. I may not have access to it right away, but believe me, if it’s worth remembering, I will remember it. (Seems strange when I can’t remember where the milk is inside the store, but that’s the way it is.) So if I put a good idea away, go sleep on it, and let it gestate for a little bit, guess what? It will churn around in there with all the other stuff I don’t understand, with the bits and pieces that have fallen down to a subconscious depth. When the idea is ready to be used, it will resurface, triggered by another idea, or by one of my five senses, and when it does come up for air it will have added form and dimension that I could not have forced on it, but that my brain has added without conscious action on my part.

A note on the physical manifestation of these ideas. Eventually it becomes important to capture thoughts and lay them out in a way that others can understand. I think that writers tend towards superstition the way baseball players do. We like the same paper, the same pencils, the tactile feel of erasers and graphite. We like to write at the same time of day, in the same chair, with the same cup of coffee in our hand. We like it when a perfect paragraph comes out. We sit and stare at it, beautiful there on the white page, and wonder why we can’t make another one just like it. After a few times looking at it, we realize that it’s not perfect anymore. This line has to be changed, and that word, and now the whole thing is messed up. The piece of art is ruined.

To me it is important to be able to get a lot out and quickly. When I am really cruising, I kind of just barf it up on paper, and for that there is nothing better than typing. By typing I can almost keep up with my thoughts, whereas if I am writing by hand what I put down becomes illegible, even to me, and I have to go back and figure it out. When I use the iPad I feel like a wizard, or a conductor, cutting here, tapping to move there. Revision becomes so much easier, as well as printing out finished copy, or sharing to the web. Technology has made it easier to be creative. Don’t let your superstitions keep you from exploring new tools, and don’t let trying to make a perfect piece of art stop you from writing.


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