Forgetting as Step in the (Writing) Process

Last November I finished a book. I resisted returning to it because I didn’t want to make any changes before receiving feedback. But when January ends, so does my time in writing purgatory: the period when an author does nothing but wait for critic’s reviews and direction as to next steps.

Today was the day: I picked up the pile of pages abandoned months ago.

Reengaging with this project filled me with dread. I had no desire to stir an old writing demon–self-doubt–from its winter slumber. But I barely got past page three when an unfamiliar fiend introduced himself, telling me that what I held in my hand was not real, that the words were not mine, and that the prose on the page had nothing to do with the person reading them now or the person who wrote them then.

I forgot. I forgot what the book is about, I forgot why I wrote the book, I forgot I wrote the book.

You’ve probably already picked up on this but I’ll say it anyway.  I’m very worried. Because I’ll need to turn in revisions soon. And right now I don’t recognize the author, content, or purpose of a project that took years off my life and eroded whatever was left of my youthful optimism.

My meditation app told me to accept this as anxiety, to stop resisting so I can find my way through.  But I’ve got my own tried and true strategies for redirecting worry:  cleaning and reading.  I’ll share what I found out from both.

First: a flashlight works wonders for revealing crumbs that escape the naked eye.

Second: forgetting is fine. It’s as human as fear, essential for literacy, and for embracing creativity that is fierce and feminist.

My reading, if not my wiping down of clean counters, proved promising.  I found that neuroscientists, literary critics, and literacy and composition scholars all say that absence is not empty and that we can kindle a relationship with a stranger.

Put simply: forgetting is the first step in finding out that writing changes you.


About Jessica Yood

I am an Associate Professor of English at Lehman College, The City University of New York (CUNY). Composition and Rhetoric is my primary field and research into the history and emerging role of writing in our contemporary culture continues to broaden my definition of this discipline. Work for my book project takes me into the history of literary criticism in America, complexity theories, the culture wars and the intellectual crises of the 1990s, and the enduring complexity of first-year writing and writers.
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1 Response to Forgetting as Step in the (Writing) Process

  1. Today was the day: I picked up the pile of pages abandoned months ago.

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