Monday, May 17, 2004

The lost art of storytelling

I once read somewhere that the brain stores every experience, every sight, every sound, and every tidbit of knowledge - useless or not - that we encounter throughout our lives. That same somewhere also mentioned that, with practice, we could learn to have better recall of those elements stored in our brains. Unfortunately, I wasn't paying enough attention to that part of the article and the methods were not stored in the active recall portion of my brain.

You see, I think the brain is like a big document storage facility. The important documents - the names and faces of our closest family, for instance - are in red folders in the top drawer of the first filing cabinet. Easily displayed in our minds and referred to constantly. The red folders have earned a permanent place at the front of the storage facility. As you move down the cabinet and toward the back of the facility, the documents have progressively less importance and are referred to less often. As existing documents are needed more often, they are shuffled forward for easier recall. The documents that were in those spaces are shuffled down and back. Let me illustrate...

I used to produce television commercials. I could write, shoot, and edit. These were not anything spectacular but I did have a talent for it. About six years ago, I made a career change. I now work with computers. I could still produce a television commercial but in order to do so, I would need to have the records management specialist in my brain locate the documents on advertising and allow me to peruse them for a while before the ideas really started to grow. We all know that skills and knowledge unused will begin to deteriorate over time.

Similarly, documents created and only referred to once or twice are filed way in the back amongst the dusty bankers boxes stacked floor to ceiling. This is where the names of my great uncle Anthony's daughters is. There's a reference document in the card catalog that tells me I saw them last at my grandfather's funeral and there is a categorization listed on the card that tells me they were real lookers but that's it.

With my retention and recall, I figure I have one or two regulation-size file cabinets up front, a few more just beyond the reference desk, and a whole bunch of those dusty bankers boxes.

So what's the point of all of this and what does it have to do with my title?

Do you recall the John Doe story? If it's already made it into your bankers boxes don't worry about it. At the beginning of that entry, I told you that I tend to write blogs - or snippets of them - in my head as I go through life. I write some really good ones, too. Very descriptive. The problem is, the documents get placed in the inbox on the reference desk and they never quite seem to get properly filed. The card catalog has many of the memory joggers but the ink fades fast.

I could use a micro cassette recorder and I actually have one. This works well when you're driving or other places where it's easy to think out loud. It's a little difficult to do, however, while sitting in a restaurant trying to describe the way your overweight waitress is shuffling along, reeking of french fries, and seems not to notice your lack of beverage.

So, while I sit here trying to catalog the experiences of the weekend, recall those that I felt were important and sort through the inbox, active file and card catalog... you'll just have to wait a little longer for my fish tails.

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