I’m sitting at the cafe right now. The place is packed, even for a Saturday.
This is about the time I’d normally feel like escaping the joint, getting back up to my studio and focusing on a story. This is when the second espresso would kick in and I would feel my writing superpowers activate.
If I look into this memory, I can see the soft glow of the lamp waiting for me. I can see the desk I no longer own. I can see the ancient dining table to one side of the room covered in books and drawings, the pale light of a gray day filtering in through the gauzy curtains. I can look around this room and see all the art tacked to the walls. I can hear the raw silence of the dance hall of the dead all around me.
Yes, it was pretty awesome, but I don’t have that studio anymore. I don’t even live in this town. In fact, I live in a completely different world… It’s so easy to slip into a new reality. It happens before you even know you’ve left.
Recent studies show that we are always forgetting. Memories are not permanent structures. They’re recreated from scratch every time we exercise the power of recollection, and the perceptions of experience change with each etching.
Of course, we writers already knew it was possible to change memories. They can be short-circuited or supercharged, removing pain or energizing their intensity. After all, this is basically how stories are written. This is our superpower.
A writer takes a memory (real or imagined) and builds out from this, creating a reality which exists entirely within their own head. Over time, and with effort, that reality becomes more and more intense. Depending on the depth of writer’s determination, this story may even become a reality which others are willing to experience.
At the center of this concept is one of the most important questions a writer needs to ask:
Am I willing to live in this world? Is there enough here for me to revisit it over and over again, draw out characters and their lives, wander the streets, chronicle the battles and muddle through the boring bits between? (hopefully leaving the last on the cutting room floor so that others will be willing to live in the world as well)
What is interesting is that even though I’ve lived through many different realities I’ve never stopped being a writer. I’ve never stopped viewing the world through the eyes of a novelist, imaging dialogue for every face I’ve seen, histories for every every object I’ve touched, and futures for every place I’ve been.
I’ve often felt that this ability to reshape reality, this otherness, is a curse or a defect, but I know that it is also a gift, and as with all gifts there are responsibilities and obligations, which is mutually exclusive of the responsibility to edit Proustian paragraph-length sentences which stretch on through multiple commas and semicolons (and parenthetical diversions disguised as cleverness).
In the end, most people have to live with the reality they are given, but as a writers we can change ours whenever we like. Don’t forget this. Strengthen that memory through practice and your superpowers will only increase.