Memory as Muse.
Memory is a fickle thing. I remember distinctly that day of declaration, or so I believe. It was my 17th year. I was in the front yard with one of my best friends–actually; he was my only best friend at the time, but that’s another story–and we were hooking a goat to a cart. In small-town Texas, there wasn’t a lot to do, so why not hook a goat to a cart and go for a ride? Once the cart was ready, I ran back inside and grabbed my cardboard “throwaway” camera. When I got back out to the driveway, I snapped a picture of my friend just as he was turning around, hand in one pocket, face frozen in surprise, goat strapped in and uninterested to one side. This picture is important; it gives my memory proof of the day and brings clarity to the process of remembering. Or at least it seems that way, and that’s enough.
We were climbing up on the cart to take that around-the-town goat ride when he asked me; “So, what DO you want to do?”
This wasn’t as out of the blue as it might seem. We had been talking about what we wanted to do with our lives when we got out of “Bumfuck, Egypt,” as our juvenile minds liked to call it. I leaned back and looked at him. It didn’t take long for it to come to me.
“I want to write a novel.”
“Really? I thought you wanted to be a rockstar?”
“Well, duh. Why can’t I do both, man?”
At this point in my life, I was already doing well with art and music, so why I felt the need to take on another creative outlet will remain a mystery. Some of us do that to ourselves. You know who you are. He shrugged and settled into his side of the cart. I guess he agreed. However, life did not, at least not for a while. I did try the rockstar route at first. Oh, I did indeed write while pretending to be David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen at the same time, but you know what they say about splitting your attention. There were many short stories and partial attempts at longer works (I have since learned WHY they were all partial), and many, many books read on writing and otherwise. I still have some of those books thirty years later, like Ray Bradbury’s “Zen and the Art of Writing.” I took a lot of what he said to heart; “Write every day,” and “Keep a list of short ideas and names that come to you.” I have a very long list.
Though I did have a lot of fun strolling along that short and rocky rockstar path, storytelling continued to call to me, and over time, it insinuated itself into everything I did. It would be there in my artwork, my songwriting and eventually would come up in the form of filmmaking. The great detour that was cinema! That was another short, but enjoyable path. I know I keep saying short. Truth is, I still do all these things; the songwriting/performing, filmmaking/animation/etc., but my focus has come full circle, and a sharper focus it is. These days, it’s all about the stories flowing through everything. This is more evident in the novel I just finished but may be less clear in a piece of artwork. However, it is there.
I can’t be certain since I lack the objectivity of the outside observer, but I’d like to think having all these varying creative experiences makes for a better writer. At the very least, it gives me some fortifications and seeds for imagination. Even if memory were to revise the entries in my knowledge-base with stories of false grandeur, it would still serve as long as I didn’t start thinking I really was Eddie Van Halen incarnate. Come to think of it, it may be BETTER if our memories did exactly that. Think of the possibilities! I suspect my memory has a mind of its own, and may be a purveyor of fantasy unmatched among the tools of my craft. We should all let our memories know how much we appreciate the effort by writing yet another story–keep the lies… err… stories flowing. I find benefit in this relationship since my genres of choice happens to fall under the “fantastic fiction” moniker. That’s what I like to call it, anyway. Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, or anything not-of-this-world. Even when I sit down to write a straight drama–I do like those–it ends up with some hint of, “Okay, that was odd.” This might be a by-product of the varying experiences. I know when I find a story I like, and I learn about the writer, it often happens that they, too, are inflicted with some form of all-over-the-place-ism that I can relate to, so there may be something to it.
This probably feels a bit like I’m starting to ramble, and you would not be wrong. This is not unlike that day we took the goat-drawn cart around town. My mind wandered in a similar way, though instead of looking back, I was lost in the reverie of what may come. I can’t say things turned out the way I had imagined that day, but I also can’t say I’m unhappy about it. I believe there’s some benefit to taking the long way around. For me, it was sometimes bumpy, other times Zen-like, always interesting. The ride was winding and circuitous, but eventually came back to the starting point; I wrote that novel. And as many fellow writers can attest, once you’ve done it, once you’ve written the words “The End,” on a hard work of length, you’re hooked.
Skål! Here’s to memory. May she continue to whisper glorious lies into our ears so that we may incorporate them into our worlds and pass them on to others in the many stories to come.