"...And Make It Real Creative!" - December 1996

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-1by Andy Capp

It was a clear evening, warm and still by late October South Dakota standards. The nearly full moon recast everything in my path in a silvery blue, an inviting contrast to the sterile orange street lights that had invaded the night (and my thoughts) just two blocks before. The car that drove by was aging and loud, as were its occupants, though most college students seem oblivious to both time and sound...

...I was in the car that night, along with Tim, Tom and Scott. The last Lone Star beer had been downed some days before, and tomorrow Scott would catch a plane back to Waco and premed. We'd already been pulled apart by life after high school, Tom and me being the only ones spending our college career "at home," but somehow the "See you later" party on that cold January night felt just a little too much like good-bye. We drove aimlessly around the town for hours, our silence pleading for more time, for our friendships not to be casualties in the battle for our future attentions. I wonder now if they remember as I do, or if they even remember my name...

...I honestly don't remember her name or face, but Barry Manilow's "Weekend in New England" brings back the memory...summer camp. I must have been thirteen or fourteen, my first romance, my first broken heart. Life's hard lessons are not wasted on the young. I recall mooning around the house devastated for several weeks after the "Dear Andy" letter arrived, digging ever deeper grooves in my copy of the melancholy Manilow 45. Talking to others, THE song was "When Will I See You Again" by the Three Degrees or "Hurt So Bad" by Little Anthony or the Lettermen or Linda Ronstadt, even "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. Pain and time and place and person all fade away, until only the song remains...

...Still, some memories burn in the mind with such clarity that years could be only moments ago. Watching Neil Armstrong walking on the moon at my Grandparents' house, the dream of dancing around my inner ear while under the influence of gas as they set my broken arm in third grade, watching "Brian's Song" with my parents and seeing my Father cry for the first time, and this funny little sidebar to the birth of my daughter:

Seventy-two hours is a long time to be in labor, and as a first time Dad to be, I'm sure I was about as much help as Sun Screen in a blizzard, but I did my best to at least stay awake and give as continuous a back rub as I was able. Soon after the blessed event, I realized that it's best for the Father not to mention any ill effects he might have had from the delivery. Still, no one could argue that I had become a might loopy at that point. So when I stood looking through the window at my beautiful new CONEHEADED daughter, I felt the need to point out to my Father-in-law that I thought her head would shrink back to normal soon. Of course it did, and of course my Father-in-law has never let me forget that conversation...

...Or this conversation. Cindy and I had already decided to, even started picking out the rings, when we spent the weekend at her parents' house. I felt the need to ask, and over lunch was looking for an opening. The small talk was a loud hum. The room burned hotter every second. My tongue felt twice the size of my head and half the weight of my body. Suddenly, a pause you could drive a limo festooned with tin cans through opened up in the center lane, and I realized that I must speak! Unfortunately, Cindy was taking a large gulp of milk at that moment, and also sensing that my moment of truth was at hand, laughed, choked, and snorted a spray of 2% out of her nose. Still derailed a few hours later, I more or less got the words out. Her Father gave us his blessing, and everyone but me has had a good laugh over it all the last fifteen years...

...I'd been walking for fifteen minutes, thinking about what Dick Orkin had said in the seminar earlier that day, about finding those emotionally charged experiences of life and using them in your writing.

Obviously there's much more to it than just relating a memory with price points jammed in there somewhere, but the basic technique is so simple, so powerful. In college, some Professors would drone on, class after class, until even the most diligent note takers would cut, while those teachers who disguised their lessons with engaging stories always played to a full house and, I suspect, improved the GPA of even the worst students. (I know they did mine!) Everybody likes a good story. They'll even tell their friends, a fact that I now realize has made Mr. Orkin so successful.

So now, every other night or so, I give my work a gift and take a walk, letting the memories flow as they will. I've found several stories worthy of use immediately, and remembered many more, like the ones I told earlier in this column, that I will put to use some time in the future. Agonizing over a new idea happens less now that I've realized that the moon always shines down on Memory Lane.

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