Monday, July 27, 2015

Losing Words

I lost my writing notebook. I've searched car, house, and handbags. Fortunately it was a new notebook with nothing more than a few thoughts jotted on the first page, a first page like the one I'm filling with these words. A steno book with an ugly maroon cover. It's not important this loss of an almost empty steno book, but still I've lost those ideas and that scares me.
All writers have their techniques and processes. I'm a timed-writing practitioner. My first drafts are always scribbled pen to paper in a steno book usually against a timer. I like the narrow pages with the spiral binder at the top allowing smooth hand and wrist movement as words flow onto paper. A timer pushes me to focus and go.

As I scribble these words into a new steno book, timer ticking away on the table beside me, I'm glad I follow another tenet of timed writing practice set forth by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones, learned from Robert Ray and Jack Remick. I key in my work. I try to stay on top of the typing so I don't accumulate the piles of notebooks some writers have of untyped work. Still, it bothers me to have lost a notebook, just as it does to struggle for memories as I begin work on a new memoir.
My mother was seventy-seven when my father, her husband of fifty years, died. Shortly thereafter signs of dementia grew gradually apparent. I used to be pleased when compared to Mom: her grace and intelligence, her energy and efficiency. Now that comparison only makes me worry, causes stress, and stress causes more mental confusion. I wonder if my mother had early signs, if she was aware of her word loss, of memories just beyond her grasp as she struggled through the depths of mourning. Were there earlier signs my sisters and I missed? Were there signs my father noticed even before his death but never mentioned? My mother lived with dementia for eleven years before she was mercifully taken from us. The final three years she was in a dementia care facility lost to herself and all who surrounded her.

I don't want that life. I don't want it for my daughter, my husband or myself. So when I lose a notebook, forget my pin at the ATM, or struggle for a colleague's name after years at the same college, I'm frightened. I don't want to lose words, memories, or notebooks. I don't want to become my mother.

Are you in Seattle? Interested in giving timed writing practice a try? Join us at Louisa's Cafe and Bakery any Tuesday and Friday. Pen to paper at 2:30 p.m. Questions? Just ask.

No comments: