Writing

An Acute Case of Writer’s Amnesia

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I don’t believe in Writer’s Block.  “Good Idea” Block?  Sure.  “Can’t Get My Lazy Butt to Sit Down and Put Pen to Paper” Block?  Definitely. 

There’s always something to write.  Even if it’s just, “I don’t know what to write” over and over (and over) again.

No, I don’t buy into Writer’s Block, but I now fully believe in Writer’s Amnesia.

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About a week ago, laden in scarf, mittens, and industrial leggings, I found myself outside in snow that was coming down quicker than I could curse at it.  It was quiet, though.  Peaceful.  At 10:00pm, there was nowhere I needed to be in this mess, so the snow wasn’t getting in the way. 

Or, was it?

As I shoveled in rhythm — push, scrape, throw, wince — a story I’ve been working on all year came to mind.  In a sudden flash of brilliance, the answer I had been looking for — the one that would tie everything together with a commercially acceptable, yet literarily uncompromising bow — was handed to me like a gift.  Complete with snappy dialogue, and buttah-like transitions.

I was almost at the end of the driveway, ready to toss the shovel and sprint into the house to copy it all down, when a neighbor appeared — a new neighbor who I felt the need to welcome and express the obligatory, “Why do we live here?” comment as we gestured to the snow.

Pleasantries completed, I galloped indoors shedding boots and ice flecks in my wake.  I sat down at the computer, flexed my fingers and… my beautiful, succinct (award-winning?) sub-plot was gone.  Vanished.  It had leaped out of the other side of my brain while I was talking shovels and schmooze. 

Never had an idea deserted me so quickly. 

Though shadows and flickers floated by, the complete package had been taken away.  I was paralyzed — not blocked, mind you, for there were other far less intriguing things I could say — I simply chose to succumb to my disease.

This was Writer’s Amnesia. 

Writer’s Amnesia comes in two forms.  The first (and the cause of my suffering) is an acute attack that steals your best ideas without warning.  You may or may not recover.  The second is a less serious, but chronic form.  This type allows writers to keep writing day after day, year after year by “forgetting” the intense pain of rejection, and all of the less glamorous memories of past writing projects.  Writers with this affliction forge ahead — like the woman who decides to have another baby after screaming, “Put it back!” during the throes of childbirth. 

The chronic form comes in very handy.  The acute form?  Not so much.

That wintry night, I stared at the computer hoping my Writer’s Amnesia would clear.  It didn’t.  The next day I tried again.  Write something.  Anything.  I couldn’t. 

Eight days later, I’m forcing myself to write something new.  Even if it’s, “I can’t believe I lost that idea” five hundred (thousand) times.  The magic will eventually come again.

We blame the snow for a lot where I’m from — bad driving, bad attitudes — but this may be the season’s first case of Writer’s Amnesia. 

Now, that’s something to write about.

*Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

52 thoughts on “An Acute Case of Writer’s Amnesia”

  1. Ohhh, I’m so sorry, that sucks! Great, fully-formed ideas always lurk until you’re distracted by something else. It’s like remembering a dream, maybe if you ignore it hard enough, some of it will come back…

    Maybe you should carry a sharpie and with you, even when shoveling?? Or Post-Its in the purse. Or your hand will do. Saying the stuff out loud helps. Sometimes I do that when I’m in the car. Gets funny looks, but it works.

    I’m sure you’ll get the idea back eventually. Even if you don’t remember you’ve gotten it back…

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    1. Thanks, WoPro. It will come.

      I do usually have pen/paper on me…and sometimes a mini-recorder. I just didn’t think it necessary for a bout of shoveling. This came in such an intense flash — there/gone. Next time…

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  2. I’ve had that happen, too. Amnesia. Not from snow. I’d gotten a fabulous idea, but the time to write it down wasn’t there. But such a great revelation would surely endure! No. Like yours, it vanished.

    Other times such a splendid idea having to be put off remained until the time to sit down. Alas! I remembered in detail what I planned to write, but the glamor of it was gone! All that was left was a skeleton of something that for some reason I thought was special when it fell into my mind. Duh! Who can explain such enigma?

    Great post. You may be right about writer’s block. Maybe it is just amnesia or procrastination. I have always suspected procrastination. Blessings to you…

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  3. Careful, remember the Shining and how Jack Nicholson started typing the same sentence over and over again?, the next thing he did was get an axe 😉
    Sadly, I do believe Writer’s Block exists. I’ve been going through one in regards to my novel for the past 3 months….bleh

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    1. Don’t worry…I’ll stop myself before I get to that point 😉

      I still have to believe its name is “Good Idea” Block. You could write some really bad stuff, just to write — I think the kinks would work out eventually.

      Best of luck to you whatever the ailment’s name.

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  4. Here’s what to do: Grab your shovel, clear your head, and recreate the scene. You never know…lightning might strike again in the same place.

    Your writer’s amnesia sounds so familiar. I use the “Notes” app on my iPhone to capture the small threads of stories that come to me at inconvenient times. Even with those notes to aid my memory, I fall prey to how cryptic my thought process can be. For instance: “Tony Packo’s + Toledo = Wintertime Fiasco!” Today, I have no idea what that particular note is supposed to mean, but I remember laughing myself silly while typing it three weeks ago.

    Good luck!

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    1. Oh, Maura…I would love to know what that meant?! I’ve also written cryptic notes — most recently on my Christmas shopping list for worry it would be seen by the wrong eyes. Still don’t know what “S or F for N, maybe?” meant. Don’t think I bought it, though 😉

      I’m certain I’ll get an opportunity to re-create the scene soon. Thanks for the encouragement~

      Like

  5. Nice to know there is a name for this stuff and that I’m not the only one afflicted. I’ll get a thought, a great line, or plot just as I’m waking up. In the few feet between bedroom and office, I lose it.

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  6. I once woke up having dreamt a perfect novel plot, with so many details gushing out I knew I would have no trouble filling up the pages.

    Alas, it was 4 am and I neglected to get up and write down any of the main points . . . or anything, for that matter. And of course, by 7 am this “brilliant” idea had started to disintegrate and could not be re-captured.

    I think all writers commit this mortal sin at one time or another. Lesson learned!

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    1. Yes, Rebecca, I believe the strongest ideas will come back at some point. But, you know when you’ve had the exact perfect phrase that you can never quite recall? That’s heartbreak. 😉

      Thanks for commenting~

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  7. Wow is this post relatable. First of all, love the idea that writer’s block is a myth. Just freewrite right? Second, like a quarterback who just threw a big interception, writers do need that short memory to overcome the likelihood of rejection. But most of all, your main point is taken. I’ve lost those perfectly formed ideas before and it sucks. My phone has a voice recorder that I began using over a year ago. I just jump to the record button and start speaking my thoughts right then and there. This strategy has helped me hold onto to some golden nuggets. Great post. To the retweet machine we go!

    Like

  8. I hate it when that happens! I have ideas disappear all the time and I just walk around lost, with my pen and paper waiting for it to come back to me. And then it doesn’t, and I lose my pen and paper when I leave it somewhere and cannot remember where.

    I do hope your idea comes back to you 🙂

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    1. Ha! Sounds like me. And, even if I do have a pen/paper, I can’t always keep up with my thoughts anyway.

      Thanks, Janna, and here’s hoping there aren’t any more moments like this (for either of us) in 2011~

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  9. Creative pursuits depend so much on the vagaries of where our brains take us. It is what allows our words to soar, but it’s also what tosses small stones (or large boulders) in our path that cause us to lose balance. We all have those aha moments. If we lose them, so be it. They will come back or they won’t. We have to believe that our thoughts are endless, and that other great ones will follow.

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  10. I hate writer’s amnesia. Terrible, terrible affliction. I guess I should always carry a notepad with me, but they always seem to get in the way most of the time, and when I have them no great ideas come to me. Oh well. So annoying.

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  11. Great post Amanda. I’ve had this happen too. Usually when I’m driving somewhere and can’t pull in to jot a note down. Also love the distinction between chronic and acute.

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  12. I’m totally with you on this. Like you, I don’t believe in writer’s block–but amnesia? Oh, hell yeah. But you know what they say–easy come, easy go. Divine inspiration is sometimes just a beautiful flash that lets you know what you are capable of.

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  13. I think all writers have this happen from time to time. Some of my best ideas come to me in the shower, or driving (not both at the same time, thank you very much). To deal with ideas behind the wheel I’ve taken to carrying a very small digital recorder, one that I use (cough, cough) even while driving. (A big no-no in California). I keep a pad and a flashlight next to my bed for those awake in the dark blasts of inspiration, or dream fragments, and once in awhile they even make sense in the morning.
    It is the ideas that occur in the shower that are those I lose most frequently. They always SEEM to be brilliant. A great story idea, a scene for a novel, a wonderful blog post… but all it takes is one stray thought, and they are gone.

    Oh, and on your statement about “Writer’s Block”, I agree. It doesn’t really exist. Wriiter’s BLAH, on the other hand is real and it hides in my office ready to spring.

    Happy to find your blog.

    Like

    1. Hi Richard — I love the concept of Writer’s BLAH! I’ve definitely felt that one.

      And, I’m very glad you don’t drive and shower at the same time. That’s only for trained professionals (believe me, I know).

      Thanks for reading — I’ll have to pop over and see what’s going on at uphill writing.

      Like

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