I write to remember.
I don’t remember when I wrote my first story. I do have a journal entry from when I was six, but it was pretty literal:
Friday night I was being selfish and evrybody Looked at me and then i left the room. i wen’t to Get my diary and then i rote wo’t i am riteing rite now.
I really don’t remember a whole lot at all from early childhood, besides the highlights. I certainly don’t remember things in a narrative way, with proper chronological order or accurate dialogue or theme. That may actually have a lot to do with why I love Story as much as I always have. Stories on the page don’t fade like a memory. Characters can be relied upon to remain, apart from the development they go through in the story, pretty much the same. Dialogue is cemented, forever, and readily referenced when you need to be moved or tickled or frightened all over again.
The seeming permanence of the written word is certainly why I both love and hate to write. I have an entire shelf dedicated to the last couple decades’ journals (About a decade was lost in a ritual creekside bonfire when I was 16. Ah, the angst of puberty). Every time I pull one of those ghosts off the shelf, two things are bound to happen, each and every time, if I go on reading long enough. First, I remember with a rush of self-loathing what I used to sound like (whiny), feel like (puffed up like an emperor penguin), and hope for (narcissistic, inconsequential drivel). It’s never fun, revisiting the cramped little box in which I tried to categorize and belittle and conquer this wide, weird, and wonderful world. Second, if I read a little farther, I always find something in my own handwriting that I have no memory putting, telling of an event or even people that sound like strangers from a dream.
My fiction is the only thing which I’ve sometimes been able to reread without needing a bucket nearby, just in case I really do lose my lunch. Journals about my true life expose my selfishness, my small-mindedness, and my self-righteousness. The stories I imagine are where a secret self lies hidden, one which I don’t grow tired of reading after just one or two lines. It’s the hidden narrator behind the words on the actual page. One who started out very old and very young at once. It’s a self that is open to almost anything if the end result is authentic and meaningful and holds the barest hint of hope.
And that’s why it’s worth the work.
That’s why I can’t stop writing.