The "Doorway Effect"
Let’s face it. It’s more fun to have written than it is to be writing.
It’s even more fun still to finally see your work in print.
Since releasing SUB-LEBRITY* (*The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote), I’ve learned there’s something even better than that!
It’s feedback from readers. I had hoped I’d make them laugh with my silly stories. But I’m completely humbled and sometimes absolutely floored how closely some readers identify with my tales of growing up gay in rural Indiana, or how others related to my struggles as an out-and-outspoken gay actor. Reading their emails, and the life stories they offer in exchange, has been an unexpected perk at the end of this long journey.
But after their always-unique stories and comments, practically every email- and message-writer ends with the same question. Friends, family and fans alike all want to know:
“How did you possibly remember all of that? Do you keep journals? Scrapbooks?”
I understand their surprise. I’m just as stunned! At 57, I often walk into a room then immediately forget why I did. (Scientists call it the “Doorway Effect,” and say the brain “resets” as we pass through a doorway. Just wait, you’ll get there, too, someday!)
And while I do write in a journal daily, I don’t keep them (except for one volume containing 1989). I’m a firm believer that journals are for writing, not for reading. And while I also used to keep detailed scrapbooks, that pretty much ended around the turn of the century as digital replaced film, prints, hard copies, letters and the rest of the “scraps” you’d glue into the books.
So, it was just me and my memories.
Accordingly, when I first decided to write SUB-LEBRITY, I conceived it as a book of comic essays, each about a specific life event I could remember – childhood events, certain films or plays I’ve done. I assumed there would be many, many gaps in my memory. I’d just stick those gaps in-between essays, and leap over them without a second thought to continuity (or senility).
But when I began writing – at the risk of sounding like a click-bait headline – what I found instead completely stunned me!
Let’s go back to my “walking into rooms” motif, and say each memory is a “room.” As I wrote each story – and relived each memory – I’d “cross that room.” And almost invariably, when I reached the far side of the room, there’d be a door awaiting me, leading me to the next room/memory. And that room led to another door Another room. Then another.
Fortunately, passing through those imaginary doorways did not reset my brain, like doorways do in real life. I was quickly stunned by not only how much I remembered, but much detail my memories still contained.
That “book of essays”? Forget about that! I now had more memories – more stories – than I possibly could use. After getting it all down on paper, I had to start cutting.
SUB-LEBRITY is about the challenges and rewards of being a gay actor. Any stories not related directly to being gay, being an actor, being a gay actor, or what that led me to become all-of-the-above, were CUT!
(OK, I may have bent my rule once or twice for a truly funny or moving piece of my history.)
No, I didn’t remember everything. After all, I came of age in the late 1970s and 1980s. I inhaled.
For example, I almost always forget auditions quickly unless I get a call soon inviting me to a callback or, better yet, giving me the role.
And while I discuss many of the “frogs I kissed” in the book, there were more – many more, in fact – whom I didn’t list because I could remember neither the names nor the details. (Oh God. I’m a slut.)
And as for all the other things I’ve forgotten for good? If I can’t remember them, it’s like they never happened!
Wait, what was the point of all this? I forget.
Oh, yeah. I remember! I encourage you to get to work, to write your memoir. Whether you’re a writer or not. Whether you have the nerve to publish it or not.
Because in the act of writing, of walking through your “rooms,” you’ll find many treasures long thought lost and forgotten. Most importantly, you discover lifelong patterns, habits, even themes, that were there all along, that played out your entire life, but perhaps you never before noticed.
I know I did. For example, do you realize how it feels to realize your parents were right all along? At least they loved finding that out!
I’m curious what you will discover! You won’t know until you start!