The Curse of a Good Memory

In high school, I was the watchful and observant type. I didn’t like to talk much and would prefer to watch others rather than interact with them. Sometimes I wrote down some of the strange things I saw and heard – and writing things down helped me commit them to memory.

I still remember all sorts of minute details from high school – and about the people I went to high school with. I see these same people around town sometimes and when I pass them in the halls of Wal-Mart or wherever, they look right through me like they don’t recognize me at all, even though I was in a lot of their classes. Because I was the quiet one, the “watcher,” I find myself recalling all kinds of scattered memories about that person: the things they talked about, what they liked to do, who they hung out with, odd little mannerisms they had, etc.

It’s a little painful, especially when you see your old crush from high school and he doesn’t seem to remember who on Earth you are. But in a more reassuring way, I’m glad I’m not really remembered (in a good way or bad way). I’d rather blend into the scenery or into the wall and conduct my observation unobserved and unremembered.

On the plus side, I have tons of random anecdotes from these memories that may become story ideas in the future and have become story ideas in the past. I can take the mannerisms of one person and match them with the mannerisms of another to create a pretty cool character.

But memory is quite an interesting concept… so my question for you is – how does your memory serve you when you write? Do you often get ideas from your memories or do they come up out of thin air?

7 thoughts on “The Curse of a Good Memory

  1. I wouldn’t say I have a great memory–and some of that is my own fault for not being as observant as I should be. But from time to time I still get flooded with memories from my childhood. They’re usually simple, seemingly unmemorable scenes like my mom cooking in the kitchen or me running down the back yard with my sisters, but they evoke such emotion and vividness that I realize just how powerful the memory is. I also get flashbacks to bad memories and the pain is still very real. I guess a good memory is both a blessing and a curse–it’s great you can put yours toward writing!


    1. I think that whole phenomenon is so strange. What’s the point of being “friends” if you’re not even going to speak to that person in public? Social conventions are most definitely not my strong suit! 🙂


  2. There is only one trait that marks the writer. He is always watching. It’s a kind of trick of the mind and he is born with it. ~ Morley Callahan

    I do interact . . . but part of me remains the “detached observer” . . . watching me interact with them . . . watching their interactions.

    It’s sort of like having a HUGE Ant Farm. 😉

    I weave memory fragments into my writing on a regular basis. Whether the memories are accurate, or not, I couldn’t say.


    1. It’s a lot more fun when the memories evolve over time and you can no longer truly remember what was real and what wasn’t!


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