Forget Everything


It’s a good friend’s birthday on Wednesday. Another good friend has promised to text me Tuesday, to remind me.

She knows what it’s like this time of year for me. I’m going to be marking hundreds of thousands of words. I’m writing a chapter for an academic text, still writing my new book, and organising a symposium on narrative voice in historical and fantasy fiction. And have a puppy and a ten year old and my wine-obsessed husband and elderly house, etc… I really won’t be human again, until July.

And I’ll forget lots and lots of stuff.

But that’s okay. As a writer, you learn that forgetting is an important part of how your mind works. You can try and write down every idea that comes to you and then mine your notebooks for ideas…but really, what happens is that you remember the best one and go searching for it in the welter of stupid ideas you have completely forgotten (‘children’s book about angry armadillo’, ‘the time the crow stole my underwear’, ‘what happened when Rocky took mushrooms’). The good ideas don’t go away. They knock on the door of your memory, slide under it into your consciousness, wait until you are driving or otherwise occupied and come and nestle in your frontal cortex.

A new colleague told me about a puppy who got stuck coming in through a catflap. He arrived in the living room, wearing the entire door panel like a skirt. She said she wished she’d taken a photo, as if it was a personally failing on her part that she hadn’t immediately reached for a camera. But as she described the moment, I could tell that she had kept that memory safe; she’d polished it and taken it out and looked at it several times. The dog has been dead two years, but the puppy is still with her.

We remember the important things. I’ll remember how much I love Sue; the way she laughs, the way her eyes crinkle up when she’s about to do something naughty…even if I do mess up and forget to buy a card for Wednesday. And I’ll remember the important ideas for my work. Even if I do forget to brush my teeth before a lecture…


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