Wednesday, September 5, 2012

memories asking to be written

"Your memory is a monster; you forget - it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you - and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!"
- John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

How important is memory for a writer? For an artist of any kind? Sometimes I feel like I have a horrible memory for details from the past - stories people told me or that I witnessed when young. Every once in a while, though, something pops up without seeming to be triggered by anything. Mostly during the monotonous, repetitive parts of proofreading.

And if I don't write it down, it's gone when I get home from work.

Like today during work I remembered I had a friend in elementary school whose last name was Fuchs. They pronounced it "fox," but that was probably so it was easier for Midwesterners to say. I remember the first time I saw someone raise their eyebrows at the name on a roster & stumble to pronounce it. I wondered why they looked embarrassed to try to say it. I knew the name didn't sound like it was spelled, but I didn't get what the big deal was about the way it looked.

What an odd burden for my elementary friend to bear - being from a conservative Christian family - to have to learn that you must always explain to people that no, your name does not sound like one of the most vulgar swear words in "worldly" vernacular. Did my friend even know what that word was, or what it meant?

I don't know if that makes a story, or at least one for me to write, but it raised the question of memory. How much do writers rely on those memories from childhood that come back almost asking to be written about? Do many writers use these as inspiration for stories, poems, or essays? I sometimes do - maybe even want to be more intentional about doing so.

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