Creative Forgetting

I’ve talked numerous times about my idea that everyone is creative. And this month, we’re going to talk about this creativity, but from the perspective I’ve been enduring. So it may or may not be well known, but childhood trauma causes memory loss. I have suffered significant memory loss throughout my life. But recently, as I’ve spent a lot of my time in my home, I’ve remembered some significant memories that punch through just a very small bit of that fog. Today’s topic is not about the science of that, or memory loss’ protective quality. It’s about creative forgetting.

I wanted to tie this into trauma-related memory loss because I think some of the same themes are playing out here. So creative forgetting is literally me forgetting all the time that I’m a writer. After a draining day or week, I’ll sit on my couch and watch YouTube videos of highly creatively disciplined individuals making their art.  I’m so happy to see other creating, and even making their living from the things they create. And I spend time too making lists, either in my head or on paper, of things I’m interested in. I do this to try to gain creative inspiration. I pull out my watercolors and paint. I make a pizza or pancakes. I sew. I read. And in all this, I conveniently forget that I’m a writer through and through.

Like many creative endeavors, writing is not regarded as valuable in our society, and it can be ridiculed (until those people who ridicule me try their hand at writing themselves). And I think that when you’re creative (everyone is in some capacity), but in a traditional way (like with writing), you have a stubbornness in your step. You know you’re doing something that’s highly valuable, and that people aren’t about to admit is highly valuable. But writing is traditionally creative  – gasp – and society wants automatons. By the way, when I say “traditionally creative”, I mean that it’s normally considered creative. I believe that everything is a creative act – from washing the dishes to fixing a car to investing in stocks.

For me to feel that I was worthwhile in my pursuit of writing as a full-blown career, I went to a coding bootcamp. This step in my education brought me a very interesting career as a Technical Writer. I blend my writing skills with some engineering skills – even building a full iOS application as a previous job. But there’s that inherent awkwardness in feeling that your position is looked down on. I wrote about this in I’m Not In It to Become a Developer, after someone said I’d make more money as an engineer (even though I have no interest in being an engineer).

So I was thinking – what if I keep forgetting that I’m a writer because I myself have integrated some other people’s beliefs about the worth of writing? I know the worth of writing. I know it’s a significant industry, a competitive industry, a powerful industry. I know that celebrities and politicians inevitably write a memoir or a self-help book. So then why the creative forgetting? Perhaps because the value of my writing has not been validated. Perhaps because my writing has not sold more than a dozen copies. Perhaps because I operate behind the scenes, most extremely as a ghostwriter. Or affectionately, as gutter, which I call the process of totally breaking down a piece of work and reassembling it.

This all isn’t about a need for me to gain attention about writing. If you snug up close to each sentence, it’s evidently a practice in thinking about why I keep forgetting that I’m a writer. Partly, it’s because I’m not reminded. And that’s not going to happen. Nobody’s going to remind me that I’m a writer. The other part of it is that I’m met with a lot of media that asks me to explore myself. Whenever I read something on Instagram or otherwise about exploring myself, I keep getting caught off guard. Thoughts course through me – do I not know myself? I look up and there are six stacks of books in front of me, and a 17 Penguin edition book collection of Victorian and contemporary Horror classics. Do I not know myself? Or is this self-care shit getting out of hand (*closes Instagram*)?

So then memory loss comes into play. Writing is how I define myself. So then is forgetting that I’m a writer a from of temporarily rejecting my identity (and myself)? And I should clarify that when I say I forget I’m a writer, I mean that I may have some free time on the weekend, and it’s not the first or second or third thing I think of doing. Of course, this could all have a lot to do with the pandemic. We’re all at home (or should be because of COVID) and there’s not a lot of external stimuli.  But what I’m trying to get to is that whatever your passion and your craft and your skill is, it is valuable. It is so valuable that for you to grasp its significance would terrify you. So please, whatever society tells you, what you do matters.

Remember who you are and keep reminding yourself every day so you don’t walk around in a daze. So you don’t wander into odd hobbies along the way that you’re not really interested in that keep distracting you from your deep work. But funny enough, if you’re a writer like me, you know those weird winding roads you take enrich what you do. Just don’t get lost there. Do what interests you, find other avenues, but remember who you are. Know that your forgetting is not forever. I recently reread a story about a girl named Vasalisa in Women Who Run With the Wolves. In this story, a little girl goes through a mini hero’s journey of developing or recalling her intuition via the external symbol of a doll. It’s a worthwhile read to understand the steps involved in building trust in the self.

What is inside of you cannot be lost or forgotten forever. Leave yourself a paper trail if you need to while you explore so that you don’t forget. What you do is an expression of a wealth inside of you. It cannot be crushed, but it can be artificially diminished by what society says, by stumbles and falls, by a whole lot of other factors. But it’s all yours and your only job is to keep remembering and keep returning.