Write Before Thinking



If I look back on my memories, I find that those of mundane everyday existence occupy little space in my mind. Instead, I remember the torrential downpour that made my first trip (or first trip I could remember) to Disney World so much fun. I remember coming home to an empty house and learning that my dad had left. I remember sitting around the fire with my younger brother, mom and new step-dad trying to come up with names for our two new puppies. We’d decide on Timber and Grizzly Bear, the Dog (or Grizz as we’d call him). I remember the first time I met the woman who would become my wife and the first time I realized I was falling in love with her. And I’ll never forget the experience of losing my mom to breast cancer.

I wish I could erase the bad memories. Wipe them clean and free up space for all the fun ones. But I know that I need the painful ones. They make me a better writer. Without them I’d struggle to make my characters real. Without both the joy and sadness, I fear that I’d be unable to instill in them the emotion needed to make them resonate with the reader.

Maybe you understand. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t care.

My journals are filled with the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs. I hate that about them, which is why I only read them when the emotional authenticity isn’t forthcoming.

In Trailer Trash, the main character is living an armchair existence until his mom’s illness and subsequent death forces him to confront his life. Up until my own mother’s death, I had to imagine what those emotions would be like. Tapping into such grief is not easy, and if done poorly reeks of manufactured emotion. Maybe good writers are so because they don’t need to draw upon their own experiences to create emotion. If so, I’m not sure I’ll ever be a good writer.

In keeping with the theme of this blog’s title, I’ve posted an essay that was never intended for public consumption. Really, it is nothing more than my own simple documentation of the experiences and emotions surrounding my mom’s death. It is matter of fact and  often blunt. It was written over a span of months and in fact, is not finished. At times I could only write a sentence or two and the most painful moments are often those void of any and all emotion. Some sections I wish I could take back. Somethings I wonder if I should share.

The memories of my mom and the legacy she left are among my most guarded and cherished, and this intimate account only represents a span of days within the 29 years that I was fortunate enough to have with her. My goal in posting it isn’t to betray her or my family, nor am I doing so for your sympathy. Rather, this essay communicates the gritty, stream-of-conscious thoughts, emotion and grief that I experienced during that time.

As tempted as I was to edit it, I didn’t. Nothing has been touched since I first wrote it, though I have included, in italics, the cast of characters and deleted a few email addresses. My goal is to re-write this into a more polished essay and present to you something she would be proud of. I don’t know when that will be, only that it will be and that it will take me some time to write it. I know that I will write it at night after my wife has gone to bed so I can be alone with my words and emotions and tears. I know that there will be sections that will be borderline impossible to get through, much as I know there will be others that make me smile.

In the end, I will write something that has the same effect on the reader as it does on me. In the end they will not think of my mom, but rather their own.

If you feel so inclined, read it.


Filed under: Short Stories/Essays, Why I Write, , , , ,

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