I shut out all the lights, sat down behind my desk, the little one facing the window in the far corner of the room, and lit two tea lights, as is my custom. I have always found that this setting lets the words come freely. But, as I recall, it wasn’t just words that I was after, but also memories.
Two or three years ago (I think two), then arts editor, Chelse McKee (or was it Nicholas McMahon?), asked me to write my favorite concert memory and send it to her for the hit “Musical memory” column.
I sat behind my “words-desk,” I put on my “thinking-pants” and I began to write. I believe the first sentence turned out to be something along the lines of: “I’m not really sure how much of this concert I will be able to remember.” I remember, at that point, switching to a different pen. I had started using a red one because it just happened to be the one that was sitting there when I sat down, but I think I thought that it was starting to look a little bit too red. I picked up a black pen and got back to work.
“It was smoky I think?” I wrote. Right there, in that second sentence, that was really where the trouble started. Upon mentioning smoke I suddenly couldn’t quite remember anything specific, except that there was smoke. The more I thought about the concert (Joanna Newsom maybe?), the more it seemed to have been nothing more than a smoke-filled room (in Japan??).
So I made the rest up. I made sure to keep coming back to the smoke so that the article was as grounded in fact as possible, but I also added some exaggerated flairs to it, as any self-respecting storyteller must. For instance, I said that there were bands, and other people and some notable features inside the venue itself.
And that’s what got published. Later, though, as I started to remember some of the actual events at the concert, I felt bad about committing so many blatant fabrications to print. It was time to set the record straight.
So I got back to work rewriting the memory, again for the hit “Musical memory” column. This time was going to be different; I had some facts to work with.
But wouldn’t you know it? I set down to work at my words-desk with my thinking-pants on. I grabbed a pen and I grabbed a piece of paper, and by the time I wrote out the first couple of words, “I remember,” my mind started to wander and then the whole memory was gone. I tried my best, but again there was very little actual fact to base anything on. I did what I could, making up as many details as seemed reasonably plausible, but every new sentence placed me further away from the memory. By the end of the piece, I had become quite sure that I had never been to the concert in the first place. It’s gotten so bad I’ve started questioning whether or not I have ever been to any concert, ever.
Just thought I should clarify.