Monday, August 23, 2010

An 18-Minute Gap in My Memory

This is one of those times where, quite some time back, I jotted down a brief bit of notes, consisting of less than a sentence. At the time, I had a clear idea of where the idea was going to go, what I was going to say, and how it was all going to make sense. I freely admit that sometimes I only manage two out of three... and sometimes only one. But I always have at least one.

In this case it had something to do with the coincidence between the length of Arlo Guthrie's most famous song and a corresponding amount of blank tape from the Nixon White House. That's a subject that has been tackled elsewhere, and at length probably exceeding the eighteen minutes of the song. I heard it while listening to a version of the song - and it would count as "a" version because it seems to change upon each telling - that included a commentary about that coincidence. The song itself remains a remarkable bit of largely extemporaneous storytelling, I must admit, enough so that the last time I heard it on the radio I was content to listen to the whole thing instead of searching elsewhere.

But whatever I had originally intended to say about that has long since vanished into the ether. Which is the problem with taking only sparese notes, or jotting down random one or two line ideas. Most of my idea book is filled with stuff like that, and for the most part I elaborate more than just one line. I may include a short little description, or a list of things, or something else to help jar my memory and get my mind back into whatever groove it was in when I wrote the idea down in the first place.

For example, I have the phrase "Dr Doolittle with insects" which came from a dream I had about a boy who could talk to scorpions, among other things. (Yes, I am well aware that scorpions are not insects. Regardless, the dream was of the boy and bugs and things in terrariums, including scorpions. .... Yes, I have odd dreams.) That story idea may not be written out completely, but I haven't forgotten it, and it's still there.

It's different when I lose an idea completely. That has happened, and I can remember one such instance clearly. My memory of that incident is helped by the fact that I wrote about it shortly after, but I also distinctly remember it. Precisely because I can't remember whatever it was I thinking at that moment, just what I was doing. While frustrating, it's less frustrating than staring at a line in my notebook, knowing I took the time to write it down, and being completely at a loss for why I wrote it down.

(Which is not the same thing as being at a loss for words, obviously.)

It may eventually come back to me, what it was I meant to say with this post on that topic. Or it may not. Odds are, having written this about it, whatever else I meant to say will get shunted to the side, replaced by this set of thoughts. That's just the way my mind works, and I know it.

If it does come back, I promise to make sure I write it down more completely in my notebook, so that I don't end up back here again.

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