Happy Groundhog Day! February 1st, 2011
So, where was I?
Yeah, I don’t remember, either. Hey, look! It’s Groundhog Day!
No, folks, this isn’t some new dementia – just the same old one. Not that I forgot to tend the blog-garden; I’ve just had other things on my plate. Good things. Don’t worry about me. But you have my apologies for stepping out. I’ve missed you, too.
Still, the sensation of losing my place, losing my train of thought, of suddenly waking up as if for the first time is very familiar to me. You too? It’s like the opposite of deja vu. It’s a feeling of “I’ve NEVER been here before” – even though I must have because, well, here I am, so clearly I was here a second ago.
“So, where was I?” That’s me all over, my train of thought derailed, and the tracks that got me here somehow invisible.
I recently told my students that it made sense to me that they would naturally write in a manner consistent with who they are. For example, if they are fearless, they will write fearlessly – perhaps easily beginning a scene without knowing where it is going to end up. If they are cautious, they will write cautiously – perhaps making an outline before setting out to write the script.
How they write depends on who they are. That probably is true for me as well.
So, where was I? The mental issue. Right.
My issue is not about losing track of time – it’s bigger than that. It has something to do with losing track of context. How is everything connected? What connects people to motivation to emotion to logic to place to time? Which bonds are strong and which are weak?
Life has been confusing to me for a long time.
All of my new ideas – including contextual information – pass through my short-term memory, which is like a bulletin board with no thumbtacks. The ideas only stick to the board when I hold them there myself, but take a hand off the board to reach for another idea… Gone. And I’ve only got two hands, folks, and a lot of ideas.
While I’m writing I find it necessary to re-discover or re-invent context constantly. In order to hang on to all of the moving parts of a scene I require lots of repetition: reading the scene over and over and over, repeatedly watching a mental video as I try to grasp context and hang onto it, all the while nudging and revising the scene bit by bit.
By the way, to the best of my recollection, my memory has not degenerated, thanks for asking. This is me. I remember a high school pal telling me, “Danny, if you ever get senile nobody is going to know the difference.” That pretty much describes it.
However, my Teflon bulletin board of a brain can take some credit for my creativity. For instance, I easily let go of assumptions – who can remember them? – and in seeing a situation fresh I frequently notice things I hadn’t before, see things in original ways. The patterns and associations that I have been taught (in society, in writing) are no more enduring to me than my memory of the twelve cranial nerves (olfactory, optic, uh, trochlear, trigeminal, vegas…? Is that twelve?)
In this way I construct the life I want to live in and write the movies I want see. And someday – one hopes – you may see them, too.
So there you have it – my poor memory is my curse, but it is also my superpower. I live with it and I write with it.
And that is how you’ll find me, on this Groundhog Day or any other: sincerely enjoying your company while I try to figure out how I know you, and doing similar detective work on my characters, trying to figure out who they are and why they’re here and how it’s all somehow connected.
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