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Friday, March 13, 2009

A Writer's Memory

The other day, I was talking to my cousin about writing and she asked me how many stories I have in progress. When I told her I have three active right now and at least a dozen more on the back burner, her response was, "Lord! How do you keep it all straight?"

Good question, now that I think about it.

The fact is, I never confuse characters or forget their names. Ditto with plot lines. I can recite the sequence of events for each story without batting an eye. I can even recall snippets of dialogue and narrative, word for word, from each story.

I had never really thought about it before, until my cousin asked the question. How is this possible when I confuse nearly everything else in my life on occasion? I often have a hard time recalling the names of people I've known forever. I forget where I put my purse. In no other area of my life do I have the kind of instant recall and memory I do with my writing. So, this begs the question -- is there a special on and off memory switch in a writer's head that only works when their thoughts turn to their stories? It probably sounds silly, but there are lots of other things that have been discovered about the functioning of the human mind that are far stranger.

I've been giving some thought to this and other things since the other day over on Sia McKye's blog when Magdalena Scott told me I was doing something she called transcendental well-filling. (She was kidding, but it made me stop and think and I'll save my thoughts on that for another post.) Right now I'm curious to know if other writers have selective recall with their stories like I've described in the above paragraph. If so, please tell me about it. I came to the conclusion long ago that we're wired differently than non-writers, otherwise we wouldn't have character voices and imagery constantly playing in our heads. And I still wonder what occupies the minds of non-writers during those quiet times when they're not talking to someone, watching tv or reading. What do they think about when they're alone in the car on a long stretch of highway?

Anyway, I think it might be interesting to note all the peculiarities associated with the writer's thinking processes as opposed to non-writers. Heck, I think the psychiatric community should do a study. What do you think? And if such a thing has already been done, please point me to it. I find this subject far more fascinating than I probably should.



  1. Uh-oh. I had a premonition that I hadn't seen the term "transcendantal well-filling" for the last time. Me and my big typing fingers.

    Interesting questions, Devon! I don't have nearly as many stories going on in my head as you do, but I do wonder how non-writers' minds work. Maybe instead of making up stories, they're planning dinner? Or envisioning home improvement projects? (Either of these could be useful for yours truly!)

    Maybe their minds are actually resting. Wouldn't that be different!?! I'm not sure mine is ever quiet. This is why I was so intrigued to read about the author's struggle to meditate properly in EAT, PRAY, LOVE. She had a heck of a time quieting her mind to meditate.

  2. Yep, you opened a Pandora's box with that transcendental comment. ;o)

  3. Believe me, you aren't the only one with 500 different writing things going on. I have 2 ms I'm currently working on, and about 50 started. Whenever I get an idea, I have to put it down in the computer, because I'm afraid I'll lose it. Some of them are great ideas, but the push isn't there like with the primary two. I, too, also run scenarios and arguments through my head, even outfits and cars. The arguments especially.
    So, don't feel alone. I at least think you're normal.

  4. Jennifer, thanks for saying you think I'm normal. I think all of us here are normal.... for writers, that is. ;o)

    Glad to know I'm not the only one with multiples of stories going on at the same time. Frankly, I don't see how any writer could only have one in progress. I mean, practically everywhere we look there's inspiration for a story. I go through dry spells sometimes when I won't get anything for weeks. But at other times, I'm bombarded with ideas. Most of them I discard for one reason or another soon after the idea comes to me, but some are good and those I keep. I've got all my partials in 3-ring binders on my shelves. I love being able to glance over there and see all those stories just waiting to happen. :o)


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