Getting Past the Past

You’re a writer, you know how it goes. Your job is to tell a compelling story that engages your reader.

Invariably, and inevitably, that story is about the past. You even tell it in the past tense. Like a good joke, you can’t tell it in the future tense: a priest, a rabbi and a duck will go into a bar…

But here’s a funny thought. The past upon which you draw for your epic work is easy soup. Easy soup, my friend, that takes no thought and no effort to either create or consume. Creating the past is kinda done for you, and you can’t help that. Revisiting the past, either by conscious choice or sudden memory, is just about as easy. Remember that time when Uncle Bob dropped the reindeer head into the soup tureen?

But the past can also be an anchor. It can be a seditious, infinitely heavy drag on everything you do, every thought you have, and every piece you write. When you find yourself thinking “this is how it’s always done,” you’re feeling the anchor tug on the hawser of your creativity. When you see a blog post start with the words “You’re a writer, you know how it goes,” you know the author is tethered to the bottom of sea of time, with no hope of sailing free.

When you find yourself thinking “this is how it’s always done,” you’re feeling the anchor tug on the hawser of your creativity. When you see a blog post start with the words “You’re a writer, you know how it goes,” you know the author is tethered to the bottom of sea of time, with no hope of sailing free.

In the sailing days, if your ship was anchored and you needed to get away quick, you would cut the hawser. Raising the anchor and hoisting it inboard took a long time, but cutting the anchor cable only took a couple of minutes. A few minutes of whuffa-whuffa-whuffa-whuf with the saw and then you were free.

To be a writer, even a writer about the future, you draw upon your past. You relive it with every single word you write.

So, how do you cut that hawser in your life and sail off to a new horizon? And, do you want to? Aye, cap’n, that’s the rub. How ever, then, do you break free? How ever are you to move unfettered into the future, leaving the vast anchor of your past embedded in the mud of the sea floor? How ever can you even envision a tomorrow with no yesterday.

How ever, then, do you break free? How ever are you to move unfettered into the future, leaving the vast anchor of your past embedded in the mud of the sea floor? How ever can you even envision a tomorrow with no yesterday.

Certainly the answer lies in moderation, in making the past your servant, not your master. The answer lies, perhaps, in letting out more line, sailing even farther away from it, but never quite cutting it loose.

Even as every second slips into the past, there’s no way to delete what was from what is. I don’t suppose that’s even a worthy goal.

Just once, once, I would like to smell bacon on the wind and just enjoy the flavor, without thinking of holiday breakfasts and other times.

But, then, I wonder: what would that flavor be?

Author: John D Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as Smashwords.com.

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