I’m having trouble with a story. It’s not so much a case of Writer’s Block. I know what the subject is. I pretty much know the beginning, middle, and ending. The problem I’m having is in the How. How do I tell the story? What form will it ultimately take when it is put on the page? I can’t wrap my mind around it and I don’t know why.
I have 8 pages of notes for this short story. That feels excessive, but I have to truly understand what is going on before I can be sure how the story will look. And it means I can’t proceed until then. The best I can do is write notes, mini-essays to myself in an effort to retrain my brain in what needs to be said. So I thought I might put some of the more essay parts out here to sift through things and perhaps find the right truth buried within.
We box up things. Pieces of us. Memories of a life lived. Through our wars and struggles, through the joys… everything that makes up a part of us.
Leafing through biographies like they were disposable items. Something to be thrown out rather than clutched to our chests and cherished. Something to be lived in once more.
These are our oldest friends, long-lost pets, a picture, a collar, a tag, a scrap of paper – separately they are probably junk… trash… together they become something else – a legacy of one man’s life.
A fossilized record of what came before.
And sadly only interesting to that one person.
Each one has a memory. Each one reminds me of something. Brings back that thing I’ve thought long since forgotten. These aren’t the kind of things you just remember because you want to. These are the things you are forced to remember because to not remember is to not have lived. To not have experienced a life worth living. To accumulate things isn’t a bad thing if it means you are connecting to a different version of yourself. That kid who recorded a VHS tape is far different from the man who just got rid of his only means of playing it. I’ve never even watched the damn thing. I’ve never had the desire. It’s a game where the team I root for winds by six or seven points. So why the hell do I keep it?
No picture is needed for a random box of baseball cards. I know exactly when and where it was purchased. Florida. Spring Break. We chilled IBC bottles instead of alcohol… still too young to bother with the real stuff. I can’t remember her name, but I still feel her arm’s wrapped around me while we sat around the hotel’s pool in that unseasonably chilly night air.
It didn’t matter if the box of cards were long since worthless – a tragedy of over-printing in the early nineties. It didn’t even matter that aside from these once a year epic cleanings that I hadn’t touched the box or the cards inside. None of that mattered.
It was what it always had been: a time capsule of a weekend of time. To remove that from my house would be to erase a moment from myself. As if I was telling a younger version that their moment all those years ago didn’t matter. The money spent was never going to be an investment.
They connect me to that kid all those years ago. They let me travel through time in my own way. They’ve built me up and cobbled me together out of ideas and thoughts and adventures and happiness and sadness and everything in between. A picture of a man. Yet not complete because you can only see the outside stuff. You can never see into the nooks and crannies of what it is to have those fleeting thoughts.
Without them, I’m just an old man who doesn’t know how he got from there to here. They’re my roadmap leading me from the past into my future.
Instead, Spring Cleaning meant death for those little pieces of memory.
Without those pieces, you get unstuck from things, from who you are. They define you, they anchor you, and those… the bad things… it’s ok if you are rid of those. It’s more than ok – you should seek those and cut them out of your life. Rid yourself of the terrible things wholly and you won’t be the same person either. You have to accept all of it. Sometimes it is going to be bad and sometimes it may end up good. And whether you want it to be those things or not-
Is no longer up to you.
John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?
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His prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Theft & Therapy, There’s Something About Mac, Hollow Empire, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.
He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com