Happy Groundhog Day! February 1st, 2011

So, where was I?  

Yeah, I don’t remember, either.    Hey, look!  It’s Groundhog Day!

No, folks, this isn’t some new dementia – just the same old one.   Not that I forgot to tend the blog-garden; I’ve just had other things on my plate.  Good things.  Don’t worry about me.  But you have my apologies for stepping out.  I’ve missed you, too.

Still, the sensation of losing my place, losing my train of thought, of suddenly waking up as if for the first time is very familiar to me.  You too?  It’s like the opposite of deja vu.  It’s a feeling of “I’ve NEVER been here before” – even though I must have because, well, here I am, so clearly I was here a second ago.

“So, where was I?”  That’s me all over, my train of thought derailed, and the tracks that got me here somehow invisible.

I recently told my students that it made sense to me that they would naturally write in a manner consistent with who they are.  For example, if they are fearless, they will write fearlessly – perhaps easily beginning a scene without knowing where it is going to end up.  If they are cautious, they will write cautiously – perhaps making an outline before setting out to write the script.

How they write depends on who they are.  That probably is true for me as well.

So, where was I?  The mental issue.  Right.

My issue is not about losing track of time – it’s bigger than that.  It has something to do with losing track of context.  How is everything connected?  What connects people to motivation to emotion to logic to place to time?   Which bonds are strong and which are weak?   

Life has been confusing to me for a long time.

All of my new ideas – including contextual information – pass through my short-term memory, which is like a bulletin board with no thumbtacks.  The ideas only stick to the board when I hold them there myself, but take a hand off the board to reach for another idea… Gone.  And I’ve only got two hands, folks, and a lot of ideas.

While I’m writing I find it necessary to re-discover or re-invent context constantly.  In order to hang on to all of the moving parts of a scene I require lots of repetition: reading the scene over and over and over, repeatedly watching a mental video as I try to grasp context and hang onto it, all the while nudging and revising the scene bit by bit.

By the way, to the best of my recollection, my memory has not degenerated, thanks for asking.  This is me.  I remember a high school pal telling me, “Danny, if you ever get senile nobody is going to know the difference.”   That pretty much describes it.

However, my Teflon bulletin board of a brain can take some credit for my creativity.  For instance, I easily let go of assumptions – who can remember them? – and in seeing a situation fresh I frequently notice things I hadn’t before, see things in original ways.  The patterns and associations that I have been taught (in society, in writing) are no more enduring to me than my memory of the twelve cranial nerves (olfactory, optic, uh, trochlear, trigeminal, vegas…?  Is that twelve?)

In this way I construct the life I want to live in and write the movies I want see.  And someday – one hopes – you may see them, too.

So there you have it – my poor memory is my curse, but it is also my superpower.  I live with it and I write with it. 

And that is how you’ll find me, on this Groundhog Day or any other: sincerely enjoying your company while I try to figure out how I know you, and doing similar detective work on my characters, trying to figure out who they are and why they’re here and how it’s all somehow connected.  


Comment by Greg Pincus
2011-02-03 00:43:17

Keeping sequences… or memories… ahh, I’m watching the challenge of that every day. It’s nice that you’ve discovered the upside and focus on that (particularly since cursing the downside not only won’t help, but forces you to try to remember if you’ve already done so).

By the way, you know me from… uh… well…. Hey, nice weather we’re having!

Comment by Kate Rhoades
2011-02-03 22:22:57

A movie theater here in Columbus, Ohio had a 24 hour marathon showing of Groundhog Day yesterday. If you stayed for all of the 12 showings, you got a year’s worth of free movie tickets. I did it. I just wanted to tell you that I still love the movie even after that. In fact, I’m watching it again on Netflix right now. I don’t know if it was sleep-deprived psychosis, but I decided that I wanted to start a series of paintings where Phil does the stations of the cross. Anyway, thanks for my favorite comedy.

Comment by Todd Skaggs
2011-04-10 19:55:53

Thank you. I stumbled on this because I was googling how long Phil Connors relived the same day.

I’m finding myself in a loop (as I’m sure many people are that come in contact with you with a sense of gratitude regarding Groundhog Day).

Thanks for this post….you write like I think. And that helps. To know that there are others out there.

This quote sums up the inspiration you’ve given me to dive back in to the writing/creating that’s been stagnant for a while now

“In this way I construct the life I want to live in and write the movies I want see. And someday – one hopes – you may see them, too.”

Again, thanks.

Comment by Mathew
2011-04-23 20:27:04

Hi Danny,

That is such a relief to hear that there are benefits to not remembering things. I have the same curse! I currently live in China, where I became wrapped up in a heavy work load at a university where I don’t really need to speak chinese on a daily basis, and three months later I was having trouble putting two sentences together in Chinese when I tried to take a taxi off campus.

If there is a flip side to this kind of forgetfulness, I’m prepared to embrace it with open arms 🙂


Comment by A Long
2011-04-28 06:33:25

Forgetfulness as a super power. That’s why I keep coming back to this blog, (even if it’s wanting for new posts) for the fresh ideas that pop up here.

Like your bulletin board analogy. Wonderful stuff. Probably could have worked that into “Groundhog Day.” Just not sure where.

Keep up the good work here and elsewhere.

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