“Undoubtedly you will try to make art out of this beautiful ephemera, the merging of the past with the present, because you’re artists, chroniclers of who you are, and who you might be, and who we all are, together.”—Hilton Als
My brain is a scattered landscape that my mind inhabits freely, without many constraints. This of course makes modern life challenging but it is at least conducive to creative writing. It enables me to follow the branches on my web of associations to wherever they may lead. Memory, we all know, typically ignores chronology, and even when it seems to be arranging itself thematically, its themes and the ones I’m trying to pursue are rarely the same. Moreover it changes course often, winding here to an amethyst necklace on one day and to a shallow, muddy pond on another. So it leads me astray as often as not, opening up wormholes that I slide in, so that I then find myself going on about something far removed from what I meant to say—something perhaps irrelevant but compelling to me in this moment—often for reasons I can’t explain. Wormholes are shape-shifters and that’s part of what makes them beautiful. And they’re muscular too, strong enough to keep me wrestling until the words are out, released, finally taking on their own existence, separate from me.
Part of being a memoirist is knowing when to let yourself slide into one of these wormholes and when not to. As if we have that much control. More often, I just let myself go there and then remove the text if it doesn’t work within my larger vision for the piece. My computer is loaded with Word files containing these scraps, one or two or eight page spewings about some incident that may or may not make its way into my book. Sometimes I write down a description of an event and then set it aside for years, waiting to catch up with it by way of other words. Waiting to suddenly have a place to insert it, a place where it’s perfect, a place that needs it and is made better by it. And then I’m grateful that I wrote it down that first time, when it drew itself up organically from the morass of my recollections and so was pulsing and writhing in my mind at the time I threw it down and made it exist.