'We write to taste life twice:in the moment and in retrospect.' Anaïs Nin
Saturday, 28 September 2019
Plundering Memory. A Writer's Odyssey
I am thoroughly
relishing the work on my new short story collection called Kaleidoscope – Stories from the Frontier. I am now writing
the sixteenth of what will be twenty short stories. Perhaps you read one of
them on my last blog post - Patchouli? One of the
most exciting things in this new project has been to focus my mind on the whole
notion of memory and how it works for a writer.
process I have asked myself questions. What is my memory? Is it objective? Is
it all I remember? Is it, perhaps, what I have forgotten? Is it all that I’ve
been told of what has happened to me? Is it what I have dreamt? Is it these
buried subconscious memories that are meat-and-drink in popular articles on
crime and its solutions?
Do I as a
writer of fiction, plunder my own memory and the memories of others? In
surveying my longish list of various kinds of publication I feel certain that I
do this – not just in character, content, andnarrative - but in those embedded memories of the language and syntax of storytelling
– crucial inner memories of the senses, the feelings, the fugitive memories of pain of delight.
From these I have created and recreated original characters in my fiction. And
I have even borrowed others’ memories as though they are our own, and projected
memories harvested from my reading. I reinvent lives as essentially original
inventions and end up believing that that is what really happened.
The joy and privilege of
being part of an oral as well as a written culture is that somehow we inherit
memory as part of our acknowledgement of our membership first of the human clan, and then the
human race. This has been reinforced and strengthened throughout the millennia
by the sharing of stories in family and social groups, allowing us to develop a
shared heritage of collective memory, sensitivity and consciousness as human
beings. Modern discussions of genetic
memory perhaps reflect this.
instinct is ultimately to express universalities which will link with our
readers' own experience and world-view. Thereby hangs worldly success, after all. Perhaps
this particularly might be said to be more purposely focused in novels attached
to genres such as espionage, crime, romance or war. But even in these fields the narratives and the characters should be unique and idiosyncratic to save the
work from suffering from an uninspired sameness.
and storytellers from the house of our own memory we invent characters with
their own histories and conflicts and we use them as psychic dwellings for our
own dense complex experiences.
Each one of us, with our unique baggage of complex
memory picks up our pen and then asks the writer’s question What if…?This is what I have been doing as I am writing Kaleidoscope.
Stories from the Frontier.My
theory is that our writing is fuelled and developed from our embedded and continuing memory,
whether intended or not. So in the end – as I have found in working on Kaleidoscope -it’s quite exciting to do
this with a greater degree of consciousness than ever before.