by T. E. Sanders
Please welcome T. E. Sanders to the Writers Journey Blog with his interesting story of Memory As Muse! (I know I do not usually publish a biography of this length, but I found it to be as entertaining as the article. Enjoy!)
Memory as Muse
Memory is a fickle thing. I remember distinctly that day of declaration, or so I believe. It was my 17th year. I was in the front yard with one of my best friends–actually; he was my only best friend at the time, but that’s another story–and we were hooking a goat to a cart. In small-town Texas, there wasn’t a lot to do, so why not hook a goat to a cart and go for a ride? Once the cart was ready, I ran back inside and grabbed my cardboard “throwaway” camera. When I got back out to the driveway, I snapped a picture of my friend just as he was turning around, hand in one pocket, face frozen in surprise, goat strapped in and uninterested to one side. This picture is important; it gives my memory proof of the day and brings clarity to the process of remembering. Or at least it seems that way, and that’s enough.
We were climbing up on the cart to take that around-the-town goat ride when he asked me; “So, what DO you want to do?”
This wasn’t as out of the blue as it might seem. We had been talking about what we wanted to do with our lives when we got out of “Bumfuck, Egypt,” as our juvenile minds liked to call it. I leaned back and looked at him. It didn’t take long for it to come to me.
“I want to write a novel.”
“Really? I thought you wanted to be a rockstar?”
“Well, duh. Why can’t I do both, man?”
At this point in my life, I was already doing well with art and music, so why I felt the need to take on another creative outlet will remain a mystery. Some of us do that to ourselves. You know who you are. He shrugged and settled into his side of the cart. I guess he agreed. However, life did not, at least, not for a while. I did try the rockstar route at first. Oh, I did indeed write while pretending to be David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen at the same time, but you know what they say about splitting your attention. There were many short stories and partial attempts at longer works (I have since learned WHY they were all partial), and many, many books read on writing and otherwise. I still have some of those books thirty years later, like Ray Bradbury’s, “Zen and the Art of Writing.” I took a lot of what he said to heart; “Write every day,” and “Keep a list of short ideas and names that come to you.” I have a very long list.
Though I did have a lot of fun strolling along that short and rocky rockstar path, storytelling continued to call to me, and over time, it insinuated itself into everything I did. It would be there in my artwork, and my songwriting, and eventually would come up in the form of filmmaking. The great detour… that was cinema! That was another short, but enjoyable path.
I know I keep saying short. Truth is, I still do all these things; the songwriting/performing, filmmaking/animation/etc., but my focus has come full circle and a sharper focus it is. These days, it’s all about the stories flowing through everything. This is more evident in the novel I just finished, but may be less clear in a piece of artwork. However, it is there.
I can’t be certain since I lack the objectivity of the outside observer, but I’d like to think having all these varying creative experiences makes for a better writer. At the very least, it gives me some fortifications and seeds for imagination. Even if the memory were to revise the entries in my knowledge base with stories of false grandeur, it would still serve as long as I didn’t start thinking I really was Eddie Van Halen incarnate.
Come to think of it, it may be BETTER if our memories did exactly that. Think of the possibilities! I suspect my memory has a mind of its own and maybe a purveyor of fantasy unmatched among the tools of my craft. We should all let our memories know how much we appreciate the effort by writing yet another story–keep the lies… err… stories flowing.
I find benefit in this relationship since my genres of choice happen to fall under the “fantastic fiction” moniker. That’s what I like to call it, anyway. Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror, or anything not-of-this-world. Even when I sit down to write a straight drama–I do like those–it ends up with some hint of; “Okay, that was odd.” This might be a by-product of the varying experiences. I know when I find a story I like, and I learn about the writer, it often happens that they too are inflicted with some form of all-over-the-place-ism that I can relate to, so there may be something to it.
This probably feels a bit like I’m starting to ramble, and you would not be wrong. This is not unlike that day we took the goat-drawn cart around town. My mind wandered similarly, though instead of looking back, I was lost in the reverie of what may come. I can’t say things turned out the way I had imagined that day, but I also can’t say I’m unhappy about it. I believe there’s some benefit to taking a long way around.
For me, it was sometimes bumpy, other times Zen-like, and always interesting. The ride was winding and circuitous, but eventually came back to the starting point; I wrote that novel. And as many fellow writers can attest, once you’ve done it, once you’ve written the words “The End,” on a hard work of length, you’re hooked.
Skål! Here’s to memory. May she continue to whisper glorious lies into our ears so that we may incorporate them into our worlds and pass them on to others in the many stories to come.
Bio: T. E. Sanders was born on the back of a bag of nickels in a dark alley behind an old Rum & Run shop in Grogansville, Texas. The locals say the town well went dry that night and the birds flew out early for the south before dawn. There’s a long held belief those statues that appeared in the cemetery the next morning were angels sent to stop the madness turned to stone.
Still, others believe they were the husks left behind by muses sacrificing themselves to their newly born God through obscene dancing rituals. Of course, you can believe what you want, but these are clearly all lies.
It is true that Sanders started young, drawing, painting, sculpting, and even playing piano, if one could call figuring out “Mary had a Little Lamb,” one finger at a time, playing piano. He was only four, after all. His life from that point on was a series of blessings and curses, not unlike anyone else’s really, maybe even yours included, dear reader.
He was blessed to have a mother that recognized what she called “God-given talents,” and though they rarely had any money, she always made sure little Timmy (he hates that by the way, his friends call him Tim) at the very least had paper and pencils for drawing. And draw he did—all through elementary school, as made evident by his grades. His mother would enter him into art contests, and he would win! It’s a wonder the poor boy’s head didn’t explode from an inflated ego, but he survived.
Then there was puberty. He survived this by first picking up the drums, then the guitar, then songwriting. This time, it was his father’s doing. It was later discovered his father had made a bet with his buddies that “My kid can outplay anybody and everybody within a year.” Although by the end of that year, Tim could not outplay “anybody and everybody,” he did achieve a comfortable level of facility to build upon and is still the bedrock used to forge new music to this day.
It was toward the end of his teens that he started writing short stories. By this point, he had reached a high level of ability with his art and music, especially for his age, but it seemed something was missing. To hear him tell it, he felt something like a force from deep within the Earth compelling him, like a voice from the very stones themselves; “Take these words and use them to paint stories directly into the mind. There is no higher resolution than imagination.” No one believes it actually happened that way, but suffice it to say, he had the drive to tell stories.
And so it was the boy became an adult, in body if not in mind, and he continued honing the skills of his various creative predilections. So far, so good. As you can see, despite his mysterious birth, Tim wasn’t that much different from many other creative people, except for what would be the next volley of blessings and curses.
He went blind. His daughter was born. Technology fixed his blindness. He discovered filmmaking. As if there wasn’t already enough going on, he submerged himself in the art of cinema. It could have been the realization of the preciousness of sight when it was taken from him for a time, or it could have been the many lazy afternoons spent watching movies with his tiny daughter when his sight returned.
Whatever it was, he went deep and made over 30 short films and a featurette in just a handful of years, many of these winning awards and gaining distribution. He was quoted as saying; “Cinema is like someone created an art form to encompass all art forms, and for someone who enjoys doing several of those forms, it’s like the drug and the pusher all in one.” No, he wasn’t known for quippy quotes, but it captured his reasoning. Sanders’ last film was a feature comedy and was one of the most profound trials in bringing art to an audience to date.
Now, years later, after working in various fields of art, both professionally and experimentally, he’s come full circle—back to the basics of story and art, and he has one thing to thank for that; The Pandemic. Covid. The ‘Rona. That damnable plague! While the pandemic lumbered on, Tim broke out his old drawing tools and proverbial writing pad and started on a Sci-fi series of novels, a graphic novel, and several short stories. Had he heard the stones of the Earth calling to him again? Was it the sound of cemetery statues pounding their feet in a tantrum? Dancing muses? Too much Mexican food? It was none of those things… probably.
I’m sure if he were here to tell you, he would simply say it was about time to get back to storytelling at its core.
There is no higher resolution than imagination.