On Writing: Deep Feelings and a Selective Memory

06/15/2015 05:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 15, 2016
Getty Images

I have trouble wholly reminiscing on my life. For example, I often don't remember who I went to movies with. I can see which theater, and I can see the film on the screen, but I can never remember who was next to me. It's all unclear. Maybe this is common? Maybe it's not. I hate it, and it's sort of sad. I wish I had a better Rolodex of past personal instances to draw upon while writing.

I have legitimate difficulty recalling the greyness, the day-to-day, the fuzz, the filler. However, the interactions that I do remember are seared in my brain. The good and the bad. The smells. The looks. The feeling. Though, the word 'feeling' doesn't quite do it. Maybe, rather, the lucid sensory overload that I am able to recall when I think about certain highlights and lowlights.

There's no real rhyme or reason though to The Ones That Stuck. They are big events; they are small moments, some of which had seemingly little significance. They could be inches during my childhood, or perhaps a mere centimeter on the ruler of my 20s.

When I try to quantify them, my fingers spin words on the keyboard in a desperate attempt to explain, but I get frustrated. I type solid, earthly text and it just doesn't seem to do justice. I find myself backspacing, saying, no, no, no, no, no. That doesn't capture the essence of what I mean.

I am tempted to make The Ones That Stuck metaphysical. They have to be more than. More than 'happy.' More than 'devastating.' More than 'uncomfortable.' I always feel things more than.

For example, how do you write about the love you read about? The love of a cinematic reel. The love that seeps out only once in this short life, for the one you'll love most out of it all. A new glass ceiling to which nothing else will measure up. A gift, tied with a ribbon by the hand of something stronger than you and I, meant to calm nerves and contain fire. To push you forward, but knock you all the way back.

It's not the words themselves, it's which one comes after which one. For the deepest of human sentiments, I wonder: Why can't I compose the formula that satisfies me? The one that allows me to say There, that's how it was, and you, reader, will feel it too.

So let me say this.

For being mere centimeters, our strongest memories cover kilometers in our veins. They cause me to spill ink that stains, that soaks up in my tissue. Ink that I can no longer shape into proper clauses to justify the majesty or the travesty. Dry spots that stay there.

But the memory, it's the memory that remains.