Thursday, 21 July 2016

Remembering things

Today I was reminded of a happy event - when I first presented 'The Fairest Fairy' and was paid for it!  It also reminded me that today was the 21st and I hadn't done my blog post! Sorry this is late going up.

Remembering things can be painful, of course. I was reminded of my Fairiest Fairy event by Facebook. I haven't worked out how to stop Facebook randomly  reminding me of past posts, and it isn't always pleasant. In May this year I had a week where Facebook kept reminding me of my mum's last illness and death two years ago. So today being reminded of things - being made to remember -worked out well, but other times it can be more difficult.

I think that our work as fiction writers is often about re-membering, re- assembling all the glimpsed and whispered creative prompts which we have accumulated in our lives through living and entering Art, and using them to make into a novel - we remember snatches of inspiration and insight - narratives we have noticed others experiencing or we have read about or seen in films etc or lived through ourselves, lessons we have learnt in our personal histories. How can we re-mind people of things without unnecessarily causing pain? It didn't really help me to unexpectedly read my hopeful posts from the hospital or my post that my mother had died. I wasn't prepared to be exposed to them. Somehow, when we write, if we do include difficult things, we have to prepare the way for the reader to meet them, and support them when they do, through our stories' narrative arcs, through our characterisation, the beauty and/or humour and rightness of our words - the kind truth of good writing. We have to write as well as we can and then gratefully accept editing to make it even better!

When we use more general historical events and characters in our novels we  have a new challenge. We are re-membering events we haven't lived through ourselves. We have to be scrupulous in our research and fair in our telling - whilst harnessing our passion so that the stories live. We are re-membering for communities and countries - not giving back individual histories to readers so much as re-membering the often painful experiences of communities and nations - and hopefully, then helping readers to understand the past more, its effects on their present lives, and so be better able to cope with their futures.

I'm working through a book by Julia Cameron at the moment. I found her 'The Artist's Way' really helpful ten years ago, and now I am working through 'The Prosperous Heart'. Today I am beginning Week Three, and I have been encouraged to remember good things and be grateful for them. For Julia Cameron, that sense of gratitude brought on by remembering good things is really good for creativity.

So I hope that for all of us as writers, any painful or happy past memories - individual or cultural - can be woven into great narratives, written as skilfully and as care-fully as possible, to make wonderful stories to delight and help our readers - and maybe even ourselves!

I'd better get on with my own book!

Oh yes- and this is the picture Facebook gave me today!


Joan Lennon said...

Memory's such a random, rampageous beast, enlightening one moment and tripping us up - splat - onto our faces in the dirt the next. That FB thing seems cruel in the extreme - I hope you can get it turned off soon. (Love your summer dress though!)

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Lovely post, and some thoughts to keep in mind as I work through another historical WIP, where I am remembering events I have had no part in. And, inevitably, regretting not asking my grandmother -- who was eleven at the time and would have had some real memories -- about these events while she was alive.

Steve Gladwin said...

I'm glad facebook can give you something positive as well Anne. I must confess you've made me see the downside of all those reminders - not as you say always welcome. And intriguing also how often we fail to break up those words 're-member' and -re-mind' into what they really mean. Thanks.

Anne Booth said...

Thank you, Joan, Sheena and Steve.