When Writers Forget What They Wrote
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and my memory is getting worse. Maybe it’s because I’ve kept a lot of stuff that I wrote from a long time ago. Maybe it’s because I’m writing more now than I used to. But every once in a while I find something that I forgot I wrote.
Sometimes when I discover something I forgot I wrote, I think excitedly, “Oh yeah, I remember this!” Sometimes, I flinch and think, “Yecchh, I remember this!”
A few days ago I stumbled upon a recent post that I don’t remember writing on Dysfunctional Literacy. When I read it, it was like reading it for the first time. I didn’t say “Yay!” or “Yecchhh!” It was like the writing wasn’t mine.
I don’t think the quality of writing affects my memory of what I wrote. I’ve written some real stinkers for Dysfunctional Literacy, especially in my first year of blogging, and I remember those just fine. This post that I forgot was just bland, I guess. The post was about an open letter. I think open letters are usually a waste of time, but this open letter was incredibly bland, which was too bad because it was signed by a bunch of famous authors (most of whom I’d never heard of). I thought if a bunch of authors were going to sign an open letter, maybe one of them should have written something in that letter to make it interesting. The open letter was bland. I guess my post about the open letter was bland too because I forgot I wrote about it.
A few years ago, I found some stuff that I wrote in college, a bunch of spirals and folders from the 1980s crammed into a milk crate. I remembered the short stories from a fiction class, but I have no clue about a literary analysis essay I wrote about a poet. The composition had my handwriting on it, but I don’t remember reading the poetry or writing the paper. Since I found the college stuff and have since misplaced it, I don’t even remember who the poet was anymore, which is surprising because according to my essay, he left quite an impression on me.
In high school I wrote a story called “Long Story.” I remembered this story very well because of how it met its end. I even wrote a serial about the story and what happened to it (called “Long Story”) for Dysfunctional Literacy. At the time (last year), it was pretty long for a blog story, but since then I’ve written (or am still currently writing) “The Literary Girlfriend,” which is now even longer than “Long Story.” At any rate, I rewrote “Long Story” for the blog and tried to recreate it as much as possible, with fewer punctuation errors. I remembered this story I wrote in high school more than I remembered the essay I wrote in college or the blog post I wrote a few months ago.
Sometimes I forget about stuff I haven’t even written yet. I started a Twitter account a couple months ago, and I keep forgetting to use it. I’ve written maybe 20 tweets, and I kind of remember them, even though none of the tweets are memorable. Some Twitter users have sent out over 100,000 tweets. If you write over 100,000 tweets, I’m pretty sure you’re going to forget some of them. I bet most of those tweets are pretty forgettable anyway. I’d worry about a person who wrote over 100,000 tweets and then could remember every single one of them.
I wonder if James Patterson remembers every single book he wrote. I’m not convinced James Patterson writes all the books that his name is on. A lot of his books are co-authored, and I don’t know how much time/effort he puts into his co-authored books anyway. Does James Patterson remember which books he actually wrote and which ones he didn’t? If James Patterson forgets about a book that he didn’t write but his name is on, did he really forget it? Can James Patterson list all of the books his name is on without a cheat sheet? You know an author has written too many books when you have to use mnemonic devices to recall all of them. When James Patterson dies, can his co-authors still put his name on their books?
I’m a little concerned that I don’t remember everything I’ve written. I’d understand it if other people forgot what I wrote. Our lives are busy, there’s a lot of stuff for our brains to juggle, so it make sense that readers would forget what they read after they read it. I forget a lot of stuff that I read. I probably save a lot of money by forgetting what I’ve read because I can reread old books instead of buying expensive new ones. But maybe I shouldn’t forget the stuff that I’ve written.
Am I the only person this has happened to? Have you ever completely forgotten about stuff that you’ve written?