A Forgetful Man by Tom Rich

by JHow on January 26, 2013

in Announcements, Lies, Damned Lies, and Fiction Writing

Cat Figurine

Regular columnist Tom Rich returns, and explains, with another in his series Lies, Damned Lies, and Fiction Writing.

You may have noticed that Lies went quiet there for a while. I would like to say that it’s because work got busy; it has a certain nobility, or at least dignity, to it. Or, perhaps, to say that I was letting Jen enjoy her vacation and also an entire semester. I’d really like to say I started in on an ambitious project that’s consumed my life, say, a three-volume history of the Spanish-American War, or a novel detailing the rise and fall of a family of Iowa corn farmers, spanning seven generations.

The truth, however, is that I got lazy, didn’t work on anything for a few weeks, and forgot how to do it. “It” being write Lies, Damned Lies, and Fiction Writing posts specifically, and write anything at all generally.

This kind of thing happens all the time: I let something I enjoy slip for more than a few days, and when I try to go back to it I have no recollections of events. I like to run, for instance, but if I go more than a day or two without running I completely forgot how to get myself out the door, or the mental tricks I use to get through the difficult bits. “Great Scott!” I say to myself. “What is this entirely new discomfort in my legs? Why am I breathing so hard? Wait, am I outside? There’s sun and bugs and redneck dogs chasing me! Flee! Flee for your lives!” And so in. It’s all terribly inconvenient.

Same story with reading fiction; a few weeks in between novels and I look at them as if they’re some sort of novelty cat figurine. About the only things I can┬áconsistently┬áremember to do are read political arguments on the internet (sad) and send vaguely obscene text messages to a friend of mine (hilarious).

Since there doesn’t seem to be a cure for being a terminally forgetful dude, the next best thing seems to be savagely clinging to writing (or whatever), to do whatever it is as frequently and vigorously as possible, so that you don’t forget how, or what it feels like, or why you do it in the first place. Conveniently, that’s also a great way to get better at it, or at least finish something.

I don’t know how many other writers run into this particular problem. Certainly we’ve all met those bastards who are just drawn to the page, can’t seem to get enough of it, and certainly we’ve all hidden spiders in their desks. No? Just me. Well, fine. At any rate, I suspect that most of us wind up in similar places, if for varying reasons: if you haven’t forgotten how to do it, you may be afraid of the blank page, or obsessed with getting all your research materials in order first, or any number of other things. Getting around to it is the key thing.

May you remember how to do the things you and enjoy, and happy writing!

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