subculture geek

i was small.

At just 4 years old, my aunt nearly let me drown in a pool roughly the size of the Sahara desert.  I was surrounded by nothingness, no one, explosions, heat, and quicksand that took the unwieldy riveting shape of chlorined water.  I was sucked straight to the center of the earth and pulled out with only seconds to spare.

Years later, my aunt would defend herself– explaining that I was in a hot tub when my arm floaties popped from the heat, and that I barely went under for a moment.

It’s possible.

I tend to remember things from the perspective of the moment, though the clarity lessens as my memories age.

Still, filters and wrinkles aside, I can recount to you every little step of my life.

I learned how unusual my memory was only a few days after turning 17 years old.  I was cross-legged on the floor of what would become my favorite classroom– barefoot, save for the post-it-note shoes I had created to prove a point. My teacher was arguing with me, leaning over his podium with the cool lazy arrogance of a modern-day Attila the Hun.  Gossip around my new high school said he was the most difficult teacher to have, but I knew immediately after meeting him that he would be my favorite.

A girl sauntered over and argued on my behalf.  I was wearing sticky notes on my feet, she announced, and so everyone else and their arguments were invalid.

I was smaller, both in size and essence, standing beside a robust Viking queen and an aging rebel– but felt right at home.  I’ve always been surrounded by giants.  One conversation led to another and we opened up an encyclopedia to learn all about how memories are formed and why most people can’t hold onto them.

A week later, that girl would be my best friend.

Two weeks later, we’d ditch the first class of our lives to hide in the classroom of our Hun leader– huddled together in tears behind his podium as we watched fellow Americans being carried out of the fiery pile of rubble that had been called the Twin Towers only hours before.

I was small, both in size in essence, and none of my giants could change what happened.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so small in my entire life– not even when I was drowning in the Sahara.

There were conspiracy theories, so silly that I am sure everyone prefers to forget them.  There was tangible anger and suffocating fear.  Our emotional high turned us all into bizarro Cookie Monsters, chomping down on a platter of the brittle cookies of hate.  No one could speak or cry without dropping crumbs everywhere.

We were next. No one liked us. We were no longer safe.

Nothing was the same.  We were haunted, but we tried to smile.  The adults in our life spewed platitudes and lies at us like we were children– which now, of course, I see that we were.

My teacher walked us to my locker.  It was smashed, with terrible words written across it.   I could tell he wasn’t surprised, but the truth of it hit me slowly.

Of course. The new girl. The brown girl. The non-Christian. The anger and its brittle crumbs scattered all over the world.  You couldn’t take a breath without inhaling someone’s exhaled rage and the crumbled remains of their broken-hearted humanity.

My giants were silent as they watched me for reactions.

I reached in and grabbed my books and whatever personal items hadn’t been violated. The books were heavy and comforting.  I wanted to hug them and instinctively pressed them against the side of my face, only realizing as I was doing it how it must look as if I was listening to them.

My friend snickered for the first time all day, and cut through the tension with rapier wit and sheer strength of will. “So, Rara, what’d they say?”

I answered her with a smile, “They said, ‘I think we’re going to be okay.'”

“That’s knowledge for you,” my teacher cut in, “Always saying the same ol’ thing, and always being right.”

Source, Jennifer Judd-McGee
Source, Jennifer Judd-McGee

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This was a freestyle memory written in 10 minutes for the Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge. I really didn’t know what I was going to write about, only that it had to start with the idea “I remember”.  There’s a hundred ways to tell this story and I’m positive I wouldn’t have told it this way if I sat down specifically to write about that day– but that’s freestyle for you.  It went through 30 minutes of editing, in 3 ten minute segments, as suggested (somewhat).  It was nice to do so much editing, since I don’t normally, but it makes me judge the writing more.

How many revisions do you normally do, or how long do you spend on editing?  Do you have memories from the perspective of your age at the time, or the perspective of hindsight?  How much of your life do you remember?

Weekly Writing Challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/writing-challenge-remember/

111 comments

  1. Great post!
    In answer to your first question, my posts take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to write and I usually do between 3 and 5 “preview-edit-preview” cycles, taking around 5-10 minutes total. This is almost always done while splitting my attention with the TV – I usually hit live pause on the TV for the final edit to be sure everything is OK.
    Poems are faster because I’ve mostly written them in my head in the hours before.
    A “proper” piece of flash fiction will usually take much more editing.

    I’m too lazy to do more 😉

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    1. I do the preview, edit, preview cycle, too– most because of the images and placement of text. Then the publish, edit, revise, too… because I inevitably miss something. Fiction, and longer pieces of writing are easier for me… my poems can go through hundreds of revisions (literally!) before I’m happy, haha. 🙂 Thanks for the insight into your writing pattern… I swear I’m up entirely of curiosity. 🙂

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  2. I take anywhere from five minutes to hours and hours to write something and then sometimes toss it in the ttrash anyway. I may take just a few minutes to write a first draft then keep editing it over and over while the TV plays in the background … at least in the evening. If I’m writing in the morning, it’s always faster because there’s no background distraction. This one, today, was very fast because it was the tiny memory of a very young child. Bigger memories, more complex memories … the day President Kennedy was shot … are far more complex with intricate emotional and social implications that changed me from the inside. There is such a big difference in a memory that is just a picture, a moment caught in time and a memory from a time when I was thinking and analyzing and saw implications of events larger than me. Memory is strange and ecompasses only what we know at the time we form them … and forever after remain unchanged, The insect forever caught in amber.

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  3. Phenomenal writing.

    I don’t have great recall on some ‘things or times’ in my life.
    But other recalls seem to be as if I am still ‘there’.

    I sometimes write straight out and hit publish. Sometimes I write something. Save it. Go back to it later to complete. I feel like I am always writing something, but not always ‘using’ it.

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    1. 🙂 Aww, thank you!!

      My memory is pretty solid, except for weird recent gaps after a killer flu.

      “I feel like I am always writing something, but not always ‘using’ it.”- I get this. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your writing insights. 😀

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  4. I’m really bad for over-editing. I’ve only just started blogging, really, and just about the only rule I’ve set is that, once it’s posted, that’s it! Leave it alone! I think it’d be great to look back over my posts when I’m old and grey, and chuckle, sigh, and roll my eyes at the things I wrote, but that won’t happen if I’m constantly revising the posts.
    I really like this post. It’s great to show the threads and connections that exist between moments; moments that might have nothing to do with each other, if it wasn’t for your memories. Seems like there’s a huge and wonderful tapestry being woven when you step back and remember 🙂

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    1. Yes, a lovely tapestry of life and memories! Everything is connected, I find… if not by theme, by emotion and insights. I like your rule! It’s pretty much my rule. I tamper enough with my images… so I leave the text alone. 🙂

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  5. I like your words, which call my memory in the college as well! (-: but not much of the past have I remembered immediately. Usually I would think of an incident all of a sudden and remember it again though…

    I spend normally very few time to revise and edit (when I’m writing Chinese). Instead I write quite a long time and think and reverse and correct. Probably I will spent 30 mins to 1 hour to finish a short piece.

    I have tried to write also a drama script, which is totally different. I drafted a rough outline, then started writing. Sometimes I would delete the whole scene. Sometimes there was a thing popped up in the mind and the whole piece became different. Finally I would spend may be a week or even more to keep modifying it….It really made a lot of fun!! (-:

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    1. I couldn’t ever manage a script, though I often try! I love dialogue, but I get stuck in the editing loop… always tweaking.

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your writing systems! 🙂

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  6. I loved this post. I remember things like you do- I can pull myself back into the moment and experience the way the world looked, the smells, everything. Sure, I assume that my memories grow or fade based on the space they reserve in my heart, their importance shifting based on the direction my life has headed since the moment itself. But the objective truth of a memory isn’t nearly as important to me as the feelings it produces when I recall it.

    I usually write a post in 20 minutes to an hour, wait a day then spend an hour or so editing and shaping it. I very rarely post on the same day that I write the first draft, unless my post regards something time-sensitive.

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    1. Exactly! The objective memory is interesting, perhaps, but not important. 🙂 I like the idea of waiting a day– I could definitely see that improving my posts. I just don’t know if I have the patience! 🙂

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  7. I have really specific memories of certain events. There are some days I can remember just about every specific detail (What I was wearing, specific songs I heard on the radio)

    My editing times will vary. Sometimes I get it near perfect on my first attempt. Other times, I can’t seem to say things quite correctly. For instance, the post I wrote yesterday, I felt that I couldn’t get it right. I should have walked away and come back later, but I eventually got frustrated and just hit publish.

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    1. Interesting! Thank you for the insights into your memory and writing. I’ve hit publish on a ‘not quite right” post before… then I just tweak it as I go. 😀

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    1. As long as it works for you, and it seems like it works for you, then who’s to say which way is the right way? 🙂 Thanks for sharing a bit of your process!

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  8. That was a really beautiful post! I’ll be honest..I don’t really do much editing at all! I just type…correct typos and it I click the schedule button..and don’t look at it anymore!

    I’m wondering if that’s a bad thing…

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    1. 🙂 Nah, so long as your posts are read-able… and they are, I’d have no worries. Editing can really craft something tighter, but for the blogosphere… I think warmth is more important than form. 🙂

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      1. Yea..I think so too, though sometimes it can be a good idea to edit when the rambling me takes over typing the post…hehe.

        I agree with editing crafting something tighter…I had my first experience writing for a local magazine and the editor, who was thankfully a friend of mine passed on to me the edited article to compare to the original I sent in…and oh crap-a-doodle-doo-wowsies….I didn’t recognize it! It was waaaaaay better than what I sent in!! LOL!

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  9. Rara,
    I know this was quickly edited, but you were NEVER small in essence. I love the cookie monster analogy of blind hatred and anger. I always thought the cookie monster was never satisfied because he never got enough cookies down his throat due to his horrible eating style. I would say the same thing goes for people under the influence of blind hate and anger.
    You know what I would have done if I was your teacher, friend, or book–given you a {{{Hug}}}. Love, Kozo

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  10. I liked it! The only criticism I would have is to work on flow, but it was still very heartfelt and touching!

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    1. Thanks, Dylan! 🙂 Concision and flow are my two greatest writing flaws, though most often, I make up for them in voice, 🙂 Thanks for the critique!

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  11. great memory is such a gift… especially for a writer. i struggle with that… but my cousin has a steel trap. she always fills in my blanks… but i’ll never know if she’s telling the truth. haha

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    1. Haha, yep, whenever my sisters or brothers ask me to recount events, I can see the skepticism in their eyes. I’m telling the truth, of course, but to 4 year old Rara, the hot tub was a sand trap of Indiana Jones proportions– so who really knows what happens? Perception is such a huge part of memory. 🙂

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  12. Interesting question… I think that I actually spend less time editing my writing now than when I was starting out as a writer. Yes, I do try to at least make sure there’s organization and structure in what I write, but I also hope that less editing is an indication that my voice is becoming more and more authentic, the more that I write.

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    1. Well, since I’ve been reading you, your voice has always been quite strong in your writing– and if there’s editing that needs to be done, I don’t notice. So your plan is working! 😀

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  13. You always do such a good job with your writing. It’s so visual, I feel like I’m really standing there in the story. Keep on rawring you awesomeness. 🙂

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  14. Memories are sometimes elusive, especially when I can’t remember small details. Thankfully, I have a friend I can call who fills in the gaps.
    Sometimes writing comes easily, other times, I sweat for hours. I particularly enjoy editing because it’s like a game to me. How many edits depends on how hard the piece was to write to begin with.

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  15. I loved reading this Rawr – it was a totally different perspective of a day we all know so well. I saw this day through the eyes of an adult, a mother with a daughter old enough to go to war, as an aunt with 3 nephews who could be called up, as a Canadian – afraid to wonder if we were next. This was very thought provoking.

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    1. It’s amazing how the same day played out so differently for so many people. I remember the first time I heard my younger siblings recount their day, the days following, 9/11… and it was like hearing an entirely different story. What a complex time!

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  16. First, wow – that memory is very powerful. Second – I have been attempting to train myself to not micromanage my words with too much editing. I do a read-through without touching a word, but just making notes. And then I edit/read three more times. After that it either gets tossed or released into the wilds to sink or swim! 🙂

    As for memories – I have one that is from my perspective, but the others are mostly from hindsight. The perspective one was of a spider that lived in my celing. He was sooooo huge to 2-year-old me! He still gives me the creeps!

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    1. A giant spider memory! That one must be haunting. I saw a cobra when I was 3 and to this day, I’ll swear that cobras could eat my entire head plus some. Perspective, it’s a frightening thing sometimes. 🙂

      I like your orderly system of editing… I’ve tried to institute hard & fast rules like that before, but I can never get them to stick. It’s sort of like when I try to blog on a schedule… it just confuses me. 🙂 I very much admire people who can manage it!

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      1. Oh, it’s only orderly to a point… I haven’t actually successfully implemented it yet, and blogging on a schedule is still beyond me. I only try because I have a tendency to edit every single time I read – at some point, the story just has to stand on its own. My editing rules are set out to save me from myself. I’m still working on it! 🙂

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  17. You are so eloquent. And your memories awesome. I wish I could do that. Editing—as many times as possible before someone yanks it out of my hands (metaphorically).

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    1. Awww, thank you! 🙂 Your writing is powerful, so you don’t need to rely on strange memories like me. 😀 I edit like that if only if there’s a reason… for most of my work, it’s just to entertain here on the blog or challenge myself to write something, so it’s relatively without a point. 🙂 But if my hubby gives me something to edit, I’ll tear that thing apart a hundred times if he lets me. 😀

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      1. I still say your writing is much more powerful than mine. You touch people’s emotions. If you wanted it, you could have a wonderful career in writing. I suggest you write some stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Check out their website. They have a list of stories they’re looking for.

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  18. I love this!

    This was great, Rara!

    As for methods,, mine is a little of both. Sometimes I pound something out quickly. Others are stories that I write and re-write to death, then preview , then post. Say ahhhh crap, and edit again. Oh well!

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    1. Thank you, Elyse! 🙂 So it sounds like your editing prowess doesn’t hold you back from fearlessly going forward if the story allows for it– that’s good! Most people I know with editing skills have to be pried away from their own work. 🙂

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      1. Sometimes it is hard to pry me away. Other times I just say WTF! My writing is sometimes better when I just leave it alone and hit publish.

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  19. You must have ended up with my “life memory” brain cells. I can barely remember last week. I does make it nice to re-read books and re-watch movies. I truly don’t remember them (very well), so there is a sense of newness. I find I remember things as I’m reading or watching (“Oh, yeah, that’s right…”), but usually can’t tell you what comes next.

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      1. In the first Sherlock Holmes novel, when Watson is first coming to know Holmes and is puzzled that he not only doesn’t know the planets of the solar system, he actively doesn’t want to know (and yet can identify over 30 kinds of cigar ash on sight), Holmes explains his belief that the mind is like an attic with only so much room. Therefore he doesn’t use up space with anything not directly germane to his work.

        You must have a phenomenally large attic! 😀

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    1. Editing is good for writing, 🙂 just so long as it doesn’t wear down or depress the writer. 🙂 Thank you for reading, and for your kind words! 😀

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  20. It hurts me to know people reacted like that towards you. Especially since we were in high school at the same time. I remember that time so clearly.

    As for editing, I’m horrible at it. I do my best but tend to catch even more mistakes afterward. With my work outside of here – I usually have a second set of eyes look it over & review for grammar, proper punctuation, and run-on sentences (my nemesis!), and all that good stuff.

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    1. I know. We were pretty young for so much hate… but fear and hate are so intertwined.

      Even after all my editing on this– after how ever many comments– I noticed that I was missing a word in the first sentence after Dave finally got a chance to read it for me. D’oh!

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  21. Congratulations on being one of the “Voices of the year”. I hope you don’t mind if I follow your blog, I love to read in the morning. A cup of coffee and a good story goes hand in hand 🙂

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  22. So very eloquent. So real. I love the title and the juxtaposition of that with your giants. Just beautiful! My writing/editing process really depends on the topic, but I always walk away for a day or two before I come back to edit. Fresh eyes! I look forward to reading your blog. ~Karen~

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  23. For any new readers coming to Rarasaur today from the Freshly Pressed page, please check out the Donate link in the sidebar along with some of the current posts. Thank you!

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  24. 1. Around 5 to 6 times.
    2. Yes, quite a few. Positive as well as negative ones.
    3. In flashes. There are some parts which have got erased from the HDD.
    Good post.

    Like

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