Mirrors to Remind Ourselves

There is a quote in the movie Memento.  “We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.”  I thought of that movie in relation to writing, just recently.

I was shocked to realize that I did not have a copy of any of my writing from my college creative writing courses on my laptop.  In a panic, I checked my USB drives.  No luck.  I’d erased all of them at one point or another for large files needed for work.  My desktop computer had recently decided it’s motherboard was of no use to it anymore, and in turn, was no use to me.

In a last ditch effort, I headed to the garage.  There, beneath the piles of corrugated cardboard boxes from Amazon that I always mean to recycle was my old laptop, which I had always meant to erase.

That laptop has a sort of sentimentality to me.  A majority of my writing has been done on that device.  Up until a year ago, it had been my faithful companion since 2002.  The case is worn, dark tarnished spots mark the perfect outline of where my palms rested on the keyboard.  There were keys missing, an unfortunate side effect of letting my son near it as a curious two year old.  The case was heavy, which what its only redeeming quality, since technology had rendered it nearly as useless as a paperweight.

But, booting it up…slowly…waiting…until…finally, there they where, copies of my work.  Not everything I had written, but a large chunk of it.  Catastrophe diverted.

I was shocked to find, going through the file names, that I didn’t remember writing many of them.  I could even tell you the premise of half of the stories.  I found myself thinking of Hemingway, whose wife Hadley lost all a suitcase full of his unpublished fiction.  Hemingway had been devastated, and blamed her for the loss.  I now understood how he felt.

I am not Hemingway, not even close, and I had no one to blame but my own carelessness, but opening one of the stories and reading a few paragraphs, I quickly realized that I could never have reproduced them.

I am a different person and a different writer.  I was Leonard from Memento, looking in the mirror at the words I had written, trying to remember what had made me put them there in the first place, trying to decode what they meant to me and why they had been important.  I have never been one for photo albums, I have never understood them.  I know where I have been and who I have met.  But looking at the writing was to remember who I had been.  They are the mirror I need to remember who I am.

We all need our metaphorical mirrors, whether they are photos, trophies, writing, collections, or simply fond memories.  We have to know where we have been if we are ever going to figure out where we are going.

I am looking forward to re-writing a few of the stories.  I have no doubt the re-writes will be drastically different than the first drafts, as there is a drastically different writer looking at them.  Still, it should be fun to look back on the young man I once was and see what the man I am today thinks of him.

Hopefully, they get along.

Lost Files by Peter Hoey

Writing:  Finished two short stories, re-writing two others.

Recently Read:  Strunk and White’s Elements of Style

Started Reading:  Vs. Reality by Blake Northcott

Recently Seen:  Super, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

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About Jack Campbell

I am a writer of dark fiction in Lawrence, KS. View all posts by Jack Campbell

5 responses to “Mirrors to Remind Ourselves

  • Maribeth

    Similiar situations have happened to me as well. Recently my youngest stepped on my laptop and cracked it. I felt like throwing up because my almost finished ya novel that I did not save on an usb (I know stupid) was on there. I love going through past work and seeing where I was and where I am.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog!

    Great post!

    • Jack Campbell, Jr.

      It is a sick feeling. Now I am actually saving it on a USB, my hard drive, and on a “cloud drive” on the internet. If all three go down, I probably have more serious problems than just my writing. You can’t keep those kids off laptops. I always catch mind stepping on mine. It is a wonder it still works.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • rayworth1973

    Jack,

    Great site! I am very OCD about saving my work and multiple backups. Also, I never use a laptop. Can’t stand the keyboard. Just me. Anyway, I still always fear a hard drive crash, a magnetic storm, something to damage my work so I have it in multiple places. That’s not to say I haven’t lost chunks here and there. Never anything super significant though. What’s bad is when I have a great idea and I’m commuting to work, get distracted and forget it when I finally have time to write it down. Fortunately, most of the time it usually comes back eventually.

    Keep up the excellent work. You rock!

    Fred

    • Jack Campbell, Jr.

      I don’t think the laptop keyboard bothers me much, simply because I have used one so much. When I was in college, having a desktop would have been too cumbersome. Now, what I actually have is a laptop for editing, and an Alphasmart NEO for first drafts. The keyboard on my laptop is pretty wide, because I have a widescreen laptop, but I like the NEO because it keeps me from worrying about editing. I can only see five or six lines at any given time, so I don’t catch myself trying to go back and fix things. That keyboard is more comfortable than my laptop, even.

      Also, with the price of the NEO, I am more likely to take it everywhere to write, because I don’t worry as much about losing it. Thanks for the feedback. Someday OnStar will figure out a way to log our ideas for us while driving down the road. It should be part of their service.

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