“I divide all readers into two classes: Those who read to remember and those who read to forget.”

–William Phelps

While that quote may be telling about readers, you could probably substitute a lot of words for”read” and have just as true of a statement. Try “drink.” It works just as well.

When I read the quote, it made me think of why I write. I don’t write to haul home the ham (that’s my subsitute for bring home the bacon…I really prefer ham). I don’t write so other people will read it (although i do enjoy getting comments and e-mails after I write something).

I write to remember. I write to forget.

My first form of artistic expression was crayola drawings. I didn’t title my first work, but if I had the chance now I would call it “Memorial Day: Me in a Coffin.” That was first grade. My teacher sent me to a counsellor.

By third grade, I was writing semi-fiction stories based on my vast experience at the time. My personal favorite was “The Ants.” It told the story of an invasion of carpenter ants into a family camper. I submitted the work for a National Literary Award. I think I took second place. That’s a joke.

I was still writing when junior high and high school rolled around. I went back and forth between flowery teen angst poetry and violent teen angst fiction that would get a sophomore expelled these days. My personal favorite was the story of a young man waiting for his date to get ready so he can give her his gift. He ends up shooting the girl and the guy who she was really getting ready for. I’m surprised no one sent me to a counsellor then. Or maybe they did and I’ve just blocked it all out. I sort of forget most of my high school years anyway. Teen angst is sometimes better than drugs and alcohol.

By college I had tried to cut back on the angst. I put more effort into keeping a little journal in a composition book and playing guitar. I fancied myself a stupid-song writer. There was the blues song about jumping off a building and impaling myself on a fence. A 50’s style song about a college baseball player who supplied me with condoms. A dark country and western song about a roommate with an aversion to oral sex. A folk tune about the benefits of masturbation. Naively, I didn’t have a clue about the negative aspects of masturbation. So many people get addicted to it without noticing and then it can be a real struggle to learn how to stop masturbation.

Then came the dark years. No song writing. No writing writing. My only form of self-expression was measuring my navel-depth with an unsharpened #2 pencil. If I was feeling adventurous, I’d sharpen it up.

Now, there’s this.

I’ve been really surprised at the number of people who read this. Even more surprised at some of the nerves I touch from time to time. Some people keep quiet. Some send me quiet e-mails. Others use the comments section.

Why do I do it? I don’t know.

I guess there’s a part of me that–while I’m quite introverted–likes to be watched. I like people knowing things about me that I don’t talk about in public. I like to vent without being “that guy who yells a lot.”

But more than anything, I write to remember. And I write to forget.

I haven’t done a lot in my life, but I like to remember the things I have. I like to remember racing my little bike up and down the street. I like to remember waking up outside Graceland at 4AM with my buddies, spending two minutes outside, then hitting the road to New Orleans, spiked up on ephedrine and ready to roll. I like to remember asking my wife to marry me in a seedy bar in Missouri while a guy sang “How Do You Say Fuck You In Spanish?” from a small stage in the back. And while I remember it all…I remember it better when I’m writing about it. It’s like being able to see your memories.

I like to forget a lot of things. And writing about the things I remember helps me forget the things I don’t want to think about.

So, thanks for reading. Gives me one more reason to write.

And maybe you’ll forget something while you’re reading. Or better yet…maybe you’ll remember.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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