Old notebook recovery operations


Memory is a strange thing. How to use it creatively is even stranger – it’s definitely unpredictable stuff – never quite what you expect it to be, when you first start digging (though often as not, what you find is extra richness).

More than a decade ago, I began writing quite a lot – with a very different approach from my younger works. First, I was seeking not justification, but gratitude and recovered grace, from times I’d written-off as hard to look at.

But along with that change in focus, came a change in attitude. No longer regarding any one piece of work as intrinsically precious, but rather the flow of intention and the development of technique. Sure enough, I’ve found that several sincerely meant pieces I wrote when younger, needed to be dissected and reconstructed, in order to deliver their message. Discarding their preciousness was what finally allowed them to actually work!

But going for process also meant going back to the well more often, and this is where things got interesting for me. The more I drew on my experience to make points both subtle and gross, with some weight and realism, the more I found new insights in old material, and memory long thought lost, returning.

I know for certain that trying to write toward a complex of compassionate and useful ideas is part of why the well has been generous to me. A bit of humour has helped too (It’s not just essays and stories, I have poems that I’ve had to rebuild from scratch four or five times, before they finally delivered what I meant them to, all along). Seeking something beyond self, is always lighter work.

But most importantly, having compassion for younger and stupider versions of ourselves, allows the vitality of their voice back in – and also gives us compassion for others around us, by reminding us that even if they are wrong – we were wrong, too!

This poem is about a very particular kind of creative memory-mining – but it’s one that I’m pretty sure some of my friends will recognize, and hopefully find at least a little bit familiar-funny.

Hey, no-wait, I can’t sign-off yet – I almost forgot the most important part – friendship and kindness. It’s the kindness and warmth that people have shared (and thankfully, continue to share) with me that has always made all the difference. Why I can stand to look in the shadows, and still smile.

Thanks folks. Seriously. Love and friends, that’s it – as for the rest? Maya!

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