The absolute pleasure of writing: memory trigger

This is a pleasure only writers get: to notice something in your filing system (in this case the Scrivener file in which I keep short story starts) that you can’t remember what it contains, and to read again your own words.

If things are not written down, they vanish in the mists of time. We constantly add to the database in our heads: what the world looks like outside the window, where the ‘super storm’ the weather people warned about was instead one single line of thunderstorms which left the grass and street wet. The way the guest bedroom in the house looks when a weekend guest has left – and how little, usually, it takes to restore it to order because you worked so hard to get it clean before she came. The pleasure of looking at a fresh repair in the bathroom of a tile problem that’s been there for several years.

The system is that fresh memories crowd out the old ones, that some memories are almost completely forgotten as they fall irretrievably out of the short term memory because they were not impressed in the long-term storage system (though I’ve had them return – or maybe re-triggered – which feels like deja vu), but that the right trigger – image, smell, sound – can bring things from deep storage I had thought lost forever.

But writers write them down, and the words can serve as that trigger.

I’ve had that happen today. For some reason I can’t remember 🙂 the Short Story Starts Scrivener file was open, and the phrase Eternally Woman lay in front of my eyes, and I had absolutely no memory of having written it. CFS brain fog? Maybe. Probably. Or possibly even just the normal process of attrition and dejunking of memories the brain goes through.

I don’t know what I’ll do with it, now that I’ve found it. But the words brought back the same feeling of adventure started, just as fresh as when I wrote it down, just as vivid.

So I thought I’d share:

Eternally Woman

As any being who shares a lifetime with a mortal man must, I paid my respects to my beautiful Joshua as they laid him in the ground, and I prepared to start again.

I am the Wife of Bath.

I am she who could take the time – out of what has already been an eternity – to love a man, to be submissive to him in the delicious way, and to bear his children – and watch them all die in the Black Plague. There was no thing I could do to save them, as I do not breed true: my beloveds were as mortal as their father. And as beautiful. My sweet sons, and their even sweeter-smelling sister – for I kept my babes cleaner than their contemporaries, for as long as I could.

I had done my grieving then, as each one came into my life, and from that moment on, had put away from all thought that each would go before me into the dark earth.

No regrets. But only that I could not tell: I would not ruin their only life, their love with bitter envy.

Do you write your memories down? And where would you take this story start – what does it invoke for you?


3 thoughts on “The absolute pleasure of writing: memory trigger

  1. Catana

    I couldn’t possibly write anything like that. I’m the least motherly person in the world. But I do have a Scrivener Stories file (project). It is cram full of ideas, way too many for my short timeline. But some of them are added to now and then as inspiration strikes. A few have even been pulled out and given their own projects. I hope to get a couple of them finished and published this year.


  2. Circe

    This is terribly beautiful, and exactly what every mother is afraid to write, or even think. The untouchable thought, of all unspeakable thoughts, is an extremely powerful beginning. It is unnerving also because of the narrator’s calm tone. Will she nurse others back to health? Enter a convent? (Boring!) Or perhaps adopt a sturdier child or children who have outlived their parents in plague time?
    Why does she believe she “does not breed true.” The plague was undiscriminating. Were her children somehow defective even before plague-stricken.
    It is so dreamlike and poetic, so maybe indeed does have the makings of a story rather than a long book. Is she sane?
    I am obviously intrigued!


    1. ABE Post author

      It does have tendrils in a lot of directions, doesn’t it?

      I was thinking of the character of the Wandering Jew, as in Walter Miller’s ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz,’ (sp? – can’t find my copy): a man who was condemned, because he didn’t believe in the first coming of Christ, to await the second one. He is a mythological creature – and I thought ‘What if the Wandering Jew were a WOMAN instead, adding the fact that the last several husbands of the Wife of Bath were younger than she – and the brain went galloping off.

      But if I hadn’t written it down – hadn’t had the Scrivener file always open for these ideas – it would be gone as much as any dream. I catch a few dreams, and write them down, but they are but the tiniest part of the ones I remember a bit of when waking, and not even a drop in the ocean to those I must have dreamed over my lifetime. All those lost stories!



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