The Trouble With Memoirs


Star Trek is set in the 23rd century, starting in the year 2265.  I have every intention of completing my next book before then.  I’ve recently resumed working on the manuscript, devoting 30 minutes per day to the writing process.  That may not seem like a lot, but it’s infinitely more time than I had spent working on it in the previous six months.

The subject of the book is, as usual, me. I write memoirs. Period.  I don’t have what scientists call an “imagination,” so I have to rely on my own memory, which is sketchy, to serve as source material for the stories I write.  The stories I’m trying to document this time around are those from my family’s trip to Europe three years ago.  I had hoped to have it completed long before now, but I’m not a particularly prolific author.  The first book took almost 40 years to write, if you start counting from my birth.  The second only took another ten years or so – again, I don’t have a good memory for details.  Given the dramatic increase in writing pace from the first to the second, I’m not too far behind schedule if you take the long view.  Hopefully, I’ll get it done before the United Kingdom officially Brexits, as, throughout the text, I have referred to England and Scotland as places in Europe.  I hate editing, so I have incentive to wrap it up post haste.

I’m getting close to completing what my kids refer to as the “sloppy copy.” I like that term as distinct from the much more formal sounding “rough draft” stage.  In culinary terms, “sloppy copy” is the equivalent of having gathered together all the necessary ingredients for a recipe, but nothing has been measured out or arranged on the counter in a way that will facilitate the efficient preparation of the dish.  “Rough draft,” to entail this metaphor, is the “mise en place” of writing, when all of the words are in the right order, properly portioned, and ready to have some revising and editing heat applied.  I’ve got a long way to go before I turn on the stove, but I’m making progress.

I’ve been thinking about my writing project in the context of Star Trek: The Original Series. Today is, of course, the 50th anniversary of the debut of the series in 1966.  Last year, I spent a few months re-watching all 79 episodes of the series, in the order they were produced.  While that may seem like a lonely cry for help, let me assure you, it gets much worse. My brother had given me a three-volume set of books – These Are The Voyages by Marc Cushman – that document every aspect of the production process for each episode of the series, including  story pitches, script writing and revising, casting, shooting, scoring, and special effects editing.  I would read a chapter, watch the respective episode, and repeat.  One chapter and episode per day, for almost three months.  Can you imagine how proud my mother is?  As a fan, I admit it was a little rough getting through the third season, without question the worst year of the show, with creator Gene Roddenberry having turned his back on the series due to the poor treatment from the network. As a geek, I found it fascinating* to read about the behind the scenes struggles to get the show produced week after week.  As a writer, I was enthralled with the creative battles that were waged over each script.

The stuff about my European vacation I’ve written this week feels like third season material. My inner Gene Roddenberry has abandoned the project, and I’m lost in space, writing rambling and often boring recollections.  Even William Shatner would have trouble over-acting his way through this material.  Hopefully, by the rough draft stage, I’ll be feeling better about it.  There might even be a “City on the Edge of Forever”-quality story or two in there, if I’m lucky.

Despite the quality of the writing, it has been fun to recollect the journey my family took.  If you count the time spent planning for the trip, it was, in fact, a five-year mission.  Without question, we explored strange worlds, sought out new (to us) life and civilizations, and boldly went where no Baker – aside from my brother – had gone before. While I can’t promise you’ll enjoy the book – it’s a travel journal, after all – I will always be grateful for the experience and will wallow in the satisfaction of having written it all down for my kids.  My books are my gift to them and their children, so they can look back and enjoy those stories of their Dad’s/Grandpa’s love of running, his strange fascination with heavy metal, and that time he went to Europe with the family, back in the old days before the Brexit.  My writing doesn’t paint an imaginative picture of the future, but I hope it tells a funny story about the past.

Tonight, I’m going to cozy up the TV, take a night off from Europe, and watch the first episode that aired back on September 8, 1966, “The Man Trap,” and try to imagine how it must have felt to see those characters for the first time.  I hope you’ll join me.  Good stories are timeless.



* Gratuitous Spock reference intended.


4 thoughts on “The Trouble With Memoirs

  1. Good stuff, Todd! I lovely interplay of the star trek universe and the struggles and joys of writing. I think I’ve seen every episode too, maybe a multiple of times. I’ve always liked that show, as corny as it was. Maybe its because I used to watch it as a little kid, and to me, it was never corny then. It was serious stuff! I’ve never seen the book set your brother gave you tho. That sounds like it would be a good read. Sort of like the bonus features of today’s movies on disc. Maybe I’ll have to put it on my Christmas list, and see if a brother gets it for me too.

    Here’s hoping your inner Gene Roddenberry has pity on your latest project. I know the feeling!


    • Thanks for the kind words. I’ve been watching a Star Trek marathon all weekend, in between chores, projects in the yard, and a bit of grilling. It’s been delightful. I do recommend the books if you are a bit obsessive about details. It is, as you suggest, like a written version of the commentary track on a DVD. Cheers!

    • Fair enough. Those terms certainly speak to the quality of the writing, but sloppy copy seems slightly more hopeful. I’ve managed to get us on a plane to Boston, so I’ll be moving on to the less-than-dreadful draft soon enough.

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