Look, fam, let me not lie to you: I have thought of literary bars that would have altered the nature of storytelling forever. Smooth, silky, and sly truths imbued with cosmic power capable of rearranging the universe right down to its atoms. I am talking about Big Bang bars that would need the James Webb Space Telescope to catch all the primordial infrared signals coming from the centre of their composition. Those lines would have sold books and secured some mad film deals. I would be running out of space for all of my accolades.
It sucks to be me, then, because I cannot remember what the fuck those lines were. I did not wrote them down.
Now they are lost to the ether and the dark starry night, never to be recalled or shared.
The question persists: if it is not written down, is it still writing?
Our hero is learning how to play the drums. He is up to eighth note beats and drum fills—soon he will start on theory and those weird scribbles that are music notation. He stumbles across Larnell Lewis, a GOAT drummer and multi-instrumental composer listening to a song once, composing a drumbeat for it in one go, and then recording the entire drumming sequence in one take. One take! As he walks the viewer through his listening process, just before he composes his arrangement, he says: “I think I’m gonna have to write this down… I think the saying is: the shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory. So, yeah, I’mma write it down.”
And he reaches for his notepad and paper.
The shortest pencil…
Strange how that works—something thought of one second can be forgotten in a matter of minutes or hours: that enticing introductory sentence that would shift a reader’s axis and spin, composed just before bedtime, is forgotten by morning, fading like a dream. And—try as one might—the idea, the words, and even the thought pattern that led to that particular sentence remain elusive.
I have forgotten entire dialogue sequences, narrative paragraphs, character descriptions, and other embarrassing details I will not record here.
I do not remember my forgotten bars; but I know the feeling of regret and loss so well. If only I had written them down.
…is longer than the longest memory.
Resetting my reading and writing routines while still attending to the numerous demands of my days has necessitated writing things down as often as possible because, as good as my memory is, I am prone to forget ideas, compositions, tasks, dance steps, and gym routines. My dome is full of clutter, creativity, and panic—the perfect storm losing lines.
These days, often in my notebook, I do my best to jot down each stray thought in case it is relevant, now or in the future. If something is not revisited later, I will have lost nothing by writing it down; but if it is, then I have one more bar with which to fuck up the universe when the time comes.
And that time always comes. Never bring a blank slate to a bar fight.
The caveat: a dreamer dreams, but a writer writes.
The lesson: if drummers are taking notes, writers should too.
POSTSCRIPT: If you want to stay rooted to your desk long enough to churn out that chapter I would recommend doing a heavy leg day. Trust me, you will not move.
READ—Books: Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck | Short fiction: “Meet Cute” by Heather Barker (Doek!) | Long-form nonfiction: “The Company Man” by Stephen Marche (Toronto Life) | Poetry: “A Silence The Depth Of Graves And Other Poems” by Timi Sanni (Lolwe) | Visual art: “Umoya” by Tok Hlongwane (Lolwe) | Comics & graphic novels: Asterix The Gaul, Asterix And The Golden Sickle, and Asterix And The Goths by Goscinny and Uderzo | WATCH—Documentary: Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time (2021) • Puff: Wonders Of The Reef (2021) | Film: Braveheart (1995) • The Dresser (2016) • Yesterday (2019) | Series: The Wire, season 2 and 3 (2019) | LISTEN—Music: “A Horse With No Name” by America • “Angel” by Fleetwood Mac • “Therapy” by Khalid • “New World In My View” by King Britt featuring Sister Gertrude Morgan • “Money Run Low” by The Score • “Hey Child” by X Ambassadors | Podcast: “King Of Kings, Part III” (Hardcore History) | TRY: Story Club by George Saunders • Backing up everything—like, right now.