“The past is never dead. It’s not even past” — William Faulkner
What drives me to write is a desire to connect with other lives, to imagine and recreate them. Sometimes, like you, I imagine my own self in former times, embellishing the experiences here and there for dramatic effect. My portals to the past are good music, certain artists, old buildings, certain books, travelling (by any means but particularly by water) and dreams. I’ve also discovered that a couple glasses of wine helps me slip through the wormhole with ease.
Right now where I am in this time, the sun is setting over the ocean, I’m watching it from the sunroom with a glass of Kendall Jackson Private Reserve in my hand. I’m waiting for Bob to come home so we can make fish tacos and share the scraps of our day. I just spoke with my grown son on the phone, and I’m still feeling anguished over a problem he is facing. But a couple of months from now I won’t remember the particulars of this day.
I forget so much more than I remember — even the things I do remember somehow change. I find that distressing, do you?
If so, rest assured a couple of hundred years from now, long after you and I are dead, someone will remember this day for us. Someone will recreate your day and mine, they will somehow capture the essence of it, pastiche a few details and share it with others. Maybe it will even be you and I who does this, in different forms under different names. OK, it’s not near late enough to be having this conversation and I’m not drunk enough, but the topic won’t let me be.
As a writer I am driven to try to capture the essence of people, some living, some long dead. Or are they dead? Have they ever lived? They exist in my mind very clearly, I can tell you that. Maybe fictional people are as real as nonfictional ones. Maybe there are no fictional people. Have you ever read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder? If not, you must. “I am large, I contain multitudes,” writes Walt Whitman. Maybe we are all the same person. This stuff drives me crazy!
Anyway, people in different centuries are more alike than different. It’s the similarities that fascinate me more so than the differences. In the first draft I’m trying to capture what it is we have in common, what we all can relate to. All of the historical details can be researched, fact checked, woven in, but the heart of the story is how we are alike, and that must be an integral, organic part. You can’t edit that in, it’s like Voice. To find the beating heart of the story might require a little time travelling.
And how to do that? Maybe you already do it without knowing it. You are already in that time as well as this time, as well as an infinite other times. (I don’t make this shit up, I have read Brian Greene, have you?) You see, it’s all happening simultaneously but your awareness, your consciousness, is partitioned off from its other selves so you seem to be only able to experience one moment in one life at one time.
Do you see what I’m burdened with here? This is the kind of thinking that drives one to write, or drink. Or both. Thank God, I hear Bob coming in the door. Time to make fish tacos! Which I won’t remember six months from now. But someday someone will, I’m quite certain.