Writing Blackouts

My foot

Last night I went looking through the documents on my computer. To be perfectly honest, I was looking for something I could pass as a blog post. I’m trying to blog more, and apparently I thought the best way to do that was to find something already written. Har har har har

I have a collection of essays on my computer. They’re just for me, and I usually don’t reread them because they’re of an embarrassing nature. They’re letters I’ll never send or angry thoughts or bad songs, and they’re always passionate. That’s the thing about these essays: they’re little collections of those rare late nights when I decided to get up and write for thirty minutes instead of turning on TV.

So I was looking through these documents to see if there was something I could edit and post on my blog to pass as a fresh new thought, and instead, I found something very interesting. In the recesses of my computer, I discovered a very early, incomplete draft of a novel. Here’s the kicker: I have almost no memory of writing it.

I remember having the idea, though I can’t recall what the actual idea was other than a mid to high fantasy, but I remember the moment of the idea. And now, like magic, on my computer, last saved in December 2014, is a file containing 20,000 words I can’t remember writing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had selective memory when it comes to writing. Once, I finished a screenplay to great relief. I was talking over the end of act two with Jill, and I told her that a very important character died.

“How’d he die?” Jill asked.

I looked at her—I had JUST finished this screenplay—and I… couldn’t remember. I paused for a moment, thinking my brain needed to process the question, but the moment passed AND I STILL COULDN’T REMEMBER. “I think it was his heart?”

She was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted. “Flabbergasted” is an underutilized word IMO.

How could I not remember how one of the main characters died?! I was the one who killed him! I had just written it! And on top of that, he was my favorite character in this story, but I had no memory of his death.

There’s a chance that this is evidence of some sort of psychological disorder. To add evidence to that case, I also sometimes refer to myself as “we.” (I’m a little worried about that.)

But there’s a chance that this is just how my brain works. When I was in college, my creative writing professor said that you write first drafts with the child in your head, locking everyone else out. It’s only in the editing stages that you let a parent come in. Well, I’m not sure he meant it quite so literally as not remembering anything you write, but it could be that I’m less something in the DSM-5 and more something like what he was talking about.

So, I decided to read this incomplete novel, and GUESS WHAT?! I found a bit of an answer to this whole blackout thing. I take you to a scene where the main character is in art class:

“It was my haven, a place where I was free to make a fool of myself. Well, without anyone but myself to pass judgment, but I usually locked myself out of my head anyway and just did. Just was. Just made.”

There you go. I honestly can’t believe this was in there. If that’s not magic, I don’t what is.

Maybe this is a weird way to approach writing: not letting myself comment on it, not even letting myself hold onto any of it. But that’s when writing’s good. When it’s just doing, just is, just making. I want more of that stuff. That’s the good stuff.

And as a special inclusion. Here are some of my favorite passages from Hatch: An Incomplete Fantasy Epic:

“I could hear him in my room, but I couldn’t convince my eyes to open. This is what happens when you spend your entire winter break playing in any of the leftover snow with the neighbor’s kids, the ones that are at least four years too young to be considered any sort of lasting friends. No, instead, someday I’ll be the person who first used a cuss word or made a dirty joke. What a reputation. “

What does that even mean?? I’m so confused, Hilary. Like, really, what do we mean?

“There are some mothers who are quite good at gently waking up their children (or so I hear), and there are teenagers who actually wake up much like a cartoon version of optimism, smiling before fully opening their eyes, and sometimes not needing another person to be involved with the whole process (or so I hear). I am not that kind of teenager, and my mother is not that kind of mother.”

This is a total lesson in writing yourself. Why did I try to write someone so far away from me? I’m a morning person. In high school, I woke myself up 3 hours before school started so I could watch yesterday’s Young and the Restless alone. The only time I remember my mom going in my room during that time was when I forgot to set my clock back and was taking a bath at 3 am, and she was worried. Now, which is more interesting: the grump teenager who won’t wake up (and I know nothing about) or the 4:00 am bath taker?

“Elmer’s glue Mohawk”


“Some schools have football or swimming or basketball. We have show choir. (We also have basketball; this is still Indiana.)”


“I think Mr. Harrington had a couple of inches on him, but this boy looked like he could pull the skin right off of a face or something really gross like that. “

Brilliant literature.

“Overreact much? Nothing. It’s just. I guess I sort of had this feeling that someone was watching me earlier. I know. Dumb. I’ve already decided it was just some hold-over paranoia from watching The Truman Show last week. I guess you could say I got Carrey-ed away.”

Holy cow. I’m packing my bags and giving up writing.