I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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I have always envied people whom are capable of speed reading, and retaining all of the information, the extreme side of the spectrum is an eidetic memory, otherwise known as a photographic memory. Many scientist agree that you cannot develop and eidetic memory, but I am not so sure about that. I read an interesting fact about eidetic memory that I shall share with you is that: the memory does not rely upon visual input, but rather it utilizes the capacity of the other body senses (Koka, 2016). And, with that in mind, there are exercises that you can do to improve your memory, such as: working on visualization skills (e.g. memory recall in greater and greater detail), playing card games (learning to count cards, etc.), encourage active reading (reading something with intent to discover information), chunking information into smaller bites, learn to make [memory] multi-sensory (explore your surroundings with all your senses, consciously), the ‘Duel n Back’ game (which can be found at brain scale), and the method of loci, or ‘places,’ which is spatial memory (walking around your home with zero light using only your memory to guide you without running into anything).
Another method that presented itself one evening while I was watching Road Trip with Sean William Scott, Amy Smart, Tom Green and others: a key to learning, and retaining information quicker and with greater ease comes by relating new information with information that you already have.
“Rubin: “What Class is that again?” Josh: “Ancient Philosophy” Rubin: “Well I can teach you ancient philosophy in 46 hours.” Josh: “Really?” Rubin: “Yeah, I can teach Japanese to a monkey in 46 hours. The key is just finding a way to relate to the material.””
Many of us do not realize however that we actually do have to teach ourselves how to learn, and memory, as most of us were fortunate to realize at some point in high school, is a huge part of learning, and understanding that we are capable of stretching our memories to retain information that we do not really want to have. We never have a problem remembering things that we are interested in—those things that intrigue us—but all that other crap, all of that everything else, that we would rather not deal with—do we really need that? And why does it so often stick with us anyway? When I was growing up it was easier to separate the two, however now, with Facebook and our media—having changed as dramatically as it has—useless crap is spilling out of our ears. I, for one, have no interest in political memes, although one did help me to recall the correct response at trivia last week, nevertheless it occurred to me that if my brain has to retain that one piece of useless information that popped up on my Facebook feed that I could not care less about, I would much rather my brain simply remember everything that it sees, reads, and hears all of the time, exactly.
I watch Criminal Minds: Behavioral Analysis Unit and, for those of you who are also fans you already know where I am going with this: Dr. Spencer Reid is an f@$king badass. Dr. Reid has an eidetic memory; the especially fantastical episodes or scenes are when he hits a switch in his brain and we watch him recalling information, even conversationally, verbatim. I want that! I read two books fairly recently that were incredibly fascinating, and I would like to come back to them once that I have made certain deductions about memory, I have a feeling I will get more from reading it with [those] in mind—you know by employing that thing I mentioned earlier called active reading—they were How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, a book which many people are familiar with, I think that it is required reading now in many college courses, and Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.
I dated a girl not too long ago that could open a book and within hours have finished it, and I am not talking about one of those pleasant ‘one sitting’ novels, I mean a novel that is, on average, three- to four-hundred pages and I suppose that she remembers a good bit of it, probably because in those hours she allows it to consume her. And now that I am thinking about it that thought, actually, might explain a lot. I envied that about her, but it was all that I envied about her, and now knowing that a novel, in as many ways as is possible, became, for those few hours, her reality and she became, for those few hours, whichever character she deemed fit, and as she would come out, many of those characteristics, those that she either shared with a character or wish she had, would become a part of her, and after a time, and many-many books, she had become a puzzle of a collection of pieces each of which allowed her to experience something about this world she was afraid to actually touch.
“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” William Gibson
My memory is unusual, I cannot make sense of it. I remember behaviors well, and intentions, and ambitions, alongside useless facts, and where at a table people sat, however there are some things that my memory does not seem to have an inclination for and the reason escapes me, but probably only because I am looking for it. The ultimate irony is how can I look for a memory that is behind me, and only in shadow?
“We take it for granted that life moves forward. You build memories; you build momentum. You move as a rower moves: facing backwards. You can see where you’ve been, but not where you’re going. And your boat is steered by a younger version of you. It’s hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way.”
I think, when it comes down to how I perceive the world, in our humanity, and as emotional creatures it seems obvious to me that we are bound to our moods, and our feelings, and our emotions too entirely they affect us profoundly in a moment and then in the next moment that feeling is fleeting, and we are different. Memory, which lives in such high regard, as if memory in-, and of itself was a being of our own creation that we are indebted to and that follow us, and yet our memories are as fluid and fleeting as the feeling that inspired our behavior in the first place, I think that is why eidetic memories are so intriguing to me, because they are balance; imagine a space between logic and emotion that collects the pieces that are left behind, and that space is neutral—remembering everything as it was, exactly and not how our emotions wanted them to be. From my humanist perspective that would astounding, but, on the flip side of that it would also be pretty great to locate a single passage from War and Peace on a moments’ notice just for the hell of it from my head.
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Writing has been a part of my life for—I’d like to say forever, but I cannot, in good conscious say that—for…a long time. I recognized that I had a talent for-, and enjoyed writing when I was either a sophomore or junior in high school. I had this English teacher, and I know what some of you all may be thinking, that she had a deep appreciation for literature and writing, and she took me under wing and cultivated that talent within me, unfortunately that’s not exactly what happened. She did recognize a talent in me, and would write notes about my papers that would read somewhere along the lines of, “Great paper! I look forward to the next one.” And, “You have such a vivid imagination, and a talent for communicating that vision onto paper.” As a result I enjoyed being in the class, and I waned to learn, and to become a better writer, and to develop a better understanding for the language. However, one morning, coming to class, she wasn’t there, and she would never be there again, when queried it turned out that she could no longer take it, it would be nice if I could say that she could no longer take the immense developing shining light that was beginning to expose itself from within me, but no, she actually couldn’t take the ridicule and humiliation and intense drama steeping from hundreds of testosterone filled teenagers at my high school. That’s right, my graduating class was so unabashedly evil that we were responsible for breaking a handful of teachers. I was disappointed when I discovered that we had driven her away, I had never really had a mentor, and I was looking forward to what the course of that year would have to offer, and what might develop but, you know, eh, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Instead I found myself bringing new AFI albums to class [The Art of Drowning] and spending entire periods laying on the floor tossing a hacky-sack to myself, sometimes I would fall asleep, because our long-term temp apparently had better things to do, I suppose, than to pay attention to his students. It took a few months to find a replacement, and once they did, our new teacher was only slightly more engaged than our long-term substitute.
I would write here and there, on my own, from then on, and the next year, when I took a psychology course that the high school offered I discovered a new topic of interest and when, at first, it was an exciting new thing to write about, it quickly became the focus of my new potential career. I would even attend UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) as a psychology major with the intention of becoming a clinical psychologist. After three years of study I became disillusioned by the idea that our apathetic society would aspire only to a fifteen minute 'therapy' session at the end of which a tiny little pill would prescribe itself to the uncertain well-being of said person’s pointless life. It was a difficult time for me, when people were more concerned with the quick fix than they were talking to-, and working through their problems—it made me sad. I did not want to prescribe medication, I am not a believer of medicating psychological disorders, yes, I know, we could talk about exceptions for hours but I would rather talk about writing, and reading, and books, so let’s get back to that…
The prospect of becoming a writer resurfaced late one night while I was driving through the southwestern corner of Colorado, it had snowed so much during the week prior that everything looked the same, although I had never been where I happened to be that night, so I’m not sure that it would have made a difference anyway, and I got lost. I use that word loosely—“lost”—because I didn’t really have a destination in mind at the time, and I’m not positive that you can actually get lost if you don’t know where your going to begin with. Nevertheless it was 3:00 AM I was driving down a snowy dead end road, before I knew it was a dead end, and thought, I should write about this. When I decided to settle(ish) in Pocatello, Idaho, and sat down to write, in my incredible new studio apartment, what would come out had nothing whatsoever to do with that night when driving in Colorado, and still, to date, I haven’t really written about that experience, I have touched on it, maybe, but (similar to how I’m touching on it in this blog) but I haven’t yet written about it—someday. I started writing, instead, about being on an airplane, and about the people on the plane, and how they might relate to-, and with one another. At the time I intended this to be a novel, unfortunately this wouldn’t be a novel. It would become a collection of short stories, and the beginning of my creative writing career. A writing career that was not at all easy to get into, however I have learned over the course of the last several years that we often attribute hard work simply to that of allowing an idea, or a passion the opportunity of the test of time. The only “hard” thing about anything is not giving up, because it is, apparently, a conditioned aspect of our nature to give up if it takes longer than we want it to.
I often think about my childhood and how much I wish my parents would have aspired to find some passion in me, and to help me learn how to pursue it. I think about that English teacher, and how that relationship could have turned into a mentorship that may have filled in the blanks, or offered those subtle insights into having a talent in a professional world that would have allowed me to develop my creativity and my professional success simultaneously. Don’t get me wrong, when I talk about success I am not referring to a Stephen King level of success or even a David Foster Wallace level of success, I am simply referring to having developed the means to cultivate a talent while also building a career. I never had that, at least the mentor that many successful artists do. Everything I know I learned by making mistakes, and by not giving up, but alas I still find myself in positions to, you know, not give up. It would be nice, at this point, to not even have the option of giving up and pursing something else, and that alternative to be an acceptable norm in the eyes of some people (my parents). I find that the difference that that mentor would have made is in the little push over the edge, you know when you're almost there, and you're always only almost there, but that little push; you know, like when something goes viral it was because that one extra person decided to like, or comment, or share, or whatever—that one little push that made the difference.
Don’t get me wrong, hard work makes a huge difference, especially for yourself when you lay your head on the pillow at night, however learning to ask for help, and to keep asking, and to continue doing it, that is what will push you over that edge.