by Nancy Martin
Do you have a memory you'd like to erase? Researchers at Montreal's Harvard and McGill University have come up with a drug that helps people forget.
No, it's not for helping you forget your first husband. Or your mother-in-law's phone number. Or the time my--er--your friend tied your brassiere to the antenna of her car and drove all over town including the pizza shop with your 36-B waving in the wind. No, Proplanonol is actually being tested on rape victims and people who suffer from serious post-traumatic stress. And it significantly reduces the stress these people experience daily.
Sounds to me as if it's the kind of shortcut our government will be eager to take when treating returning soldiers who have combat-related stress disorder. But that's another kind of blog, isn't it?
The article about this drug got me thinking. Did I have any memories I'd like to forget?
I guess I've lived a sheltered life, because I couldn't think of one. Neither could my husband. (But then, he was raised a Christian Scientist, which I think is the definition of sheltered life.) For a writer, of course, bad memories are actually a good thing.--They help us better decide how our characters act and feel. If we came upon a gruesome crime scene, we might be horrified for ten seconds, but then we'd reach for the notebook and pen to record how we feel. We want to digest every nuance for later use on the page.
Just because I don't have memories I want to be rid of doesn't mean I can't imagine how someone else might feel about a truly terrible experience, though. "I feel your pain," is a motto for a lot of writers.
Here's a website that makes me think about people and their emotional experiences. I think some of them could use this new drug. But I like the site because it reminds me what books need to be full of--emotions in turmoil.
I once had a conversation with an editor who had just become an agent. We were talking about the elements most lacking in the books she rejected. Her number one pick? The lack of drama.
I think she meant both the drama of a moment that a writer can build as well as the emotional drama the writer must first embrace, then articulate.
So the richer my emotional life as a writer, the better. But it's a fine line sometimes between turmoil you can sublimate into your work and turmoil you can't handle. I've taken anti-depressants now and then, and I've spent time in therapy, too. Neither of those experiences was a picnic in the park. But all my experiences have become useful additions to my writerly toy box.
What about you? Would you erase a memory, if you could? Because it sounds as if it could actually happen now.