We recently found out that my dad has colon cancer. It’s stage four, and has spread to other organs. You see, they can’t “cure” my dad. The tumor can’t be removed. Chemo might put the cancer into remission, but the odds are slim. I don’t want sympathy because this isn’t intended to be a sad post. I’m sad, angry and all those other things that come with the idea of losing one of the most important people in my life, but he’s still here and we’re making the best of a shitty situation. I’m telling you this to explain why I’m thinking philosophically. I don’t often do this “in public,” so it’s weird. Icky almost.
My family is now full of one thing: hope. Notice I did not say that “all we have is hope” because that implies hope is useless, insignificant in the grand scheme. The thing is, hope is what keeps every one of us plugging away at this shitty thing we call life each day. I mean, come on. Doesn’t it seem sometimes like you’ve got a target on your back that the gods of fucked up have honed in on with brutal accuracy?
But despite the crap that’s piled on us, we go on. Why? You hope tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow you might get that email that says Agent Big Shot wants your book. Tomorrow you might win the lottery. Tomorrow it might not rain.
Tomorrow, the odds might finally be in your favor.
We take a lot of things for granted. Hope is intangible, and to be honest, if we thought about it too much, we’d probably become depressed. So taking hope for granted is a good thing.
As I pondered this, I thought about the other intangible things we writers are blessed with; things that (usually) cannot be taken from us. We don’t even think about them. They’re just there and we expect that they’ll continue to be. This pondering about hope and loss made me think of memories.
What would you do without your memories? As writers, memories are vital to our creativity, to our inspiration. They fill the cracks in our stories. We create characters and situations based on our own experiences. We color all of our stories with our memories, although often I don’t think we know that we’re doing it. We don’t realize how vital memory is until part of our life becomes empty, either because we’ve lost someone, or because we’ve moved onto different circumstances.
Memory is still not fully understood. How it works and why we recall some things and not others is a mystery. Human memory is as diverse as it is complex. Consider that some people can recall events that occurred when they were too young to speak, while others can’t clearly remember anything prior to their teens. My memory is based on images. I recall things in snapshots and sometimes sounds or words. I remember several things that happened when I was not quite two years old. I know this only because I relayed these “snapshots” to my parents and they just sat there dumbstruck because I remembered the scenes, the objects, the people and the words exactly as they’d happened. To me, they were like a recurring dream. I didn’t know that what I’d dreamt actually happened until I put what I saw and heard into words. Yet, a good portion of my childhood is blank. I don’t see this as sad. It’s fascinating. Why do we remember some things, but not others? Is it choice? Is it random? Is it possible to remember beyond this life if we truly do have such things as “old souls?” How awesome would that be?
How amazing that we have the ability to imagine the awesomeness of reincarnation? This is another intangible human quality that writers can’t live without, but that we also don’t think about very often. If you’ve ever wondered about anything, you’ve used your imagination. To be honest, without imagination, I bet humanity would be stuck in the dark ages. Without imagination, we’d never have had language, medicine, technology or any sort of innovation. Yet, it’s effortless. We just say “What if…?” and there we have it. Imagination is the ability to take a vague concept and turn it into a reality. It is something we all have, but only a lucky few have figured out how to put into words. Then we choose whether or not to share those words with others.
We all have choice, no matter where we live. Some of us are given too much, while others are given precious little. But we all have choice of some kind. For example, you can choose to keep going or you can choose to give up. No one is ever forced to keep on trucking. We do it because we choose to. Any one of us can opt out at any time. The reasons for choosing to continue vary. Some of us do it out of fear, moral obligation, and others do it because the alternatives are unacceptable. Some people don’t realize we have the option of quitting. It just never occurs to them.
Writers choose to write. Yes it’s a passion and it’s like breathing once you give yourself over to it, but when you break it all down, you choose to indulge that passion. You choose what you write, how you write it and who you share it with. You choose your path to publication. No one is forced to do anything, and it irks me that some writers self-publish because they feel there is no alternative. It irks me that some writers plug away for eternity at finding an agent, because that’s the only “right” way to go. We chose to write, we chose our path, and no one forces us to do anything.
Hope. Memories. Imagination. Choice.
Thank your preferred deity for these gifts, and use them wisely.