Write it down. Save it forever. That's the basic process behind most of my stories. My ideas hit me while I'm in the middle of all sorts of experiences. This includes the happy ones, the sad ones, the overwhelmingly emotional ones, the painfully boring ones.
It's my way of never forgetting. It's my way of performing the impossible: time traveling.
I think life goes by too fast. Part of that, I've realized, is my own fault. I spend too much time in my own worlds, thinking about the color of my protagonist's eyes or my villain's favorite candy bar. One of my chief frustrations with this existence is all experiences--good and bad--slip through my fingers no matter what. Every reunion with old friends eventually ends. Every life-changing trip has a date when your ass has to be back in your cubicle or else. My love of writing was born out of a desire to make experiences like those last forever. To capture them somehow. So I could watch them fly past with relative ease and minimal anxiety.
Turning an experience or memory into a story is this nebulous, alchemical process that offers more longevity than my racing mind could ever give to a distinct experience. When I write a story about something I don't want to forget, it takes the load off my brain to do all the remembering. Enshrining a fond memory in a story is one of the best ways to ensure it never fades. Someone, and I'm not sure who, once said this: "I write to remember. I write to forget." It's paradoxical. When I tell a story, I'm remembering it so I can forget it later.
I can relive any moment I want by going back through my old stories. Like flipping through a dusty photo album at your parents' house, the words are such a clear portrait of who I was at the time. Recently, I haven't been re-reading for the memory itself. I've been re-reading to uncover--no, recover-- that young stranger in my head who keeps showing up in my past memories. Was that really me on the freshman basketball team, rail-thin with the hippie hair? Wow. It was. My head is so full of memories it's prone to burst at any second like an overripe watermelon. When I think back, I can barely convince myself that some of them are truly from my own life. I've become a spectator in my own head, watching past experiences as flickering film projected on the brick wall propping up my hippocampus.
My current work in progress is my first "real" novel. It's my ode to crazy college memories, to first vacations my friends and I took as young adults without any real adults, to Tinder misadventures, to stupid mistakes you only need to make once in a lifetime. The process of writing this book has included plucking the memories out of my head, arranging them into three acts, and plunging them into a jar filled with embalming fluid. I got whiplash from how quickly that part of my life ended. Now, it's all I can do to scramble around the corners of my brain, scooping up the errant scraps. I won't be able to write anything else until I put those memories to rest. Once I know they're safely in the time capsule, and that I'll be able to revisit them by cracking open the binding, I'll be satisfied. I'll be able to move on to the next preservation project.