I have met a few authors at conventions and bookstores. The events usually coincided with a reading from one of their books. While I was in line waiting to get a book signed, I would hear people quote a line from a book and the author could immediately identify which book and which character said the quote. Usually, the quote did not seem particularly unique to me. I was always impressed that the authors immediately knew their work so well.
I may be overlooking the obvious. I have never written a book. Perhaps authors know every word they have written because they have had to study every word with an editor . It may be that simple. Authors may know their words for the same reason I know my toolbox inventory.
I do not have that type of memory. Many times in my life, I have been asked if I had been on a site before and I have answered in the negative. Most frequently, I am asked a follow-up question, “Is there another James in your office who would write this report?” It is very hard to convince a person that they are important when you can’t remember their name, workplace, or something that was important to them. Fortunately, I am also the same guy that has accidentally been on the same blind date twice. I spend most of my life in that foggy area called “Wait, have I met this person before? Just nod and smile”. I don’t know why I have so many problems remembering people. I can go to the same club, church, bar, or coffee shop for years and not remember anyone’s name unless they do something distinctive or have a distinctive feature. It is embarrassing, Everyone can tell when I am giving them a nickname because I can’t remember their name. Apparently, “Hey…you…how are …you…doing?” is not very subtle.
People have told me that they liked the things I have said in speeches, written on social media sites, or written in the blog. It is hilarious to me when people will say a quote to me and I say, “ooh I like that, who wrote it?” only to find out that I wrote it. Apparently, most people remember things they write and say. I tend to write this blog in a “stream of consciousness” mode. I come up with a topic and write what I think until I can’t find a thought to link in. Usually the jokes flow easier out of this type of writing. I met a television show writer on a plane once. He said that he had spent four hours trying to write a joke about a coffee pot. That sounds horrible. The best I could come up with was someone taking out an insurance policy on only the coffee pot because it was the most important thing in the house. It was barely “funny after three drinks” funny.
I write my Toastmasters speeches pretty much the same “stream of consciousness” way. I write my speeches to be 6-7 minutes long. I pick a topic and talk for a while until I find a path I like. Since I do not give the same speech twice, I am literally rewriting as I am driving to give the speech. For half my speeches, I have written a set of jokes that I think will work. It is lazy writing. I think, “ok I need an extra thirty seconds in my speech” or ” I can’t think of a transition, so I will put a joke here and then just move on as if I had a transition”. I suppose this method is better than drinking heavily before my speeches or writing. Now that I have mentioned it, I have never given a speech or written a blog while drinking heavily. I see a new hobby in my future! Some of the best writers in the world have written masterpieces while drunk…Shakespeare…Hemingway…Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Some of the most memorable public speeches have been given by drunk individuals as well. I have no facts to support this claim except for most of the presidential State of the Union addresses and almost any prepared speech from Congress.
I am not sure if I am truly (internally) just putting almost all people I meet and things I say in the “stuff to be deleted” part of my brain. If so, I feel horrible about it and would like to stop. If I am going to delete things from my brain, can’t I start with irrelevant things like the fashion of 1980’s awkward teenagers in my clothing (how nice would it be to say “I don’t remember ever pegging my pants” and really mean it). While we are deleting things, I don’t think it does me any good to have instructions on how to record a mix cassette tape rattling around in my head. I don’t know if I don’t remember that stuff because I have a brain that works differently or if I am inadvertently filing people under the “not important enough to remember” section. If I were really rich, I could just pretend that I don’t remember “little people”. I try to remember people. I honestly try. I have to continually ask people for their names, but I can tell you stories from a book that I read 30 years ago. I can’t remember people who go to my church and I see every week, but up up down down left right left right B A start will be in my memory forever. I can’t remember all the names of the people at my Toastmaster’s clubs, but a BE1-25 relay with isolated inputs requires an additional 125 Volt DC signal on contacts 1 and 11 in order to trip. I can’t remember your birthday without an electronic device reminding me, but the last time we talked, your right eye twitched slightly while you were telling me a story (indicating a partial exaggeration) and you cocked your head to the left (indicating that you are trying to remember details and you are interested in the telling of the story). [Noticing those things is why I often do not look at people while they are talking. I don’t like spotting lies when they are irrelevant. I am bad at spotting lies when they are relevant to my life. I also get uncomfortable when people have the intense eye contact because I assume they are able to spot all my facial twitches too.] I would love to make people feel as if they are as important in my head as all the comic book characters. Hmm, maybe I should just call people by comic book names. Out of curiosity, how many times could I call someone a superhero name before it catches on? I would pick innocuous names, like Darkwing Duck or Poison Ivy.