Tag Archives: memory

Where memories go when they’re forgotten

December is never a good writing month for me. I find the excessive amounts of darkness pretty wearing, and what surplus creative energy I do have seems nowadays to get sucked into preparing for the the double whammy of Christmas and Arthur’s birthday three days later.

It really stressed me out last year, but this year I’ve accepted my limitations and (other than external demands on my time which I have less control over), I’m finding things all a lot easier to handle.

The timing of my self-imposed deadline for getting the latest draft of my WIP to my agent was not accidental. Having submitted that before the end of November I don’t feel too guilty about being a non-writing writer for a bit. That’s not to say all thoughts of novels have been banished completely: as I’ve let myself get caught up once more in the day to day, I have felt my next project tapping away at the corners of my mind, just waiting for its turn in the spotlight.

I find it very curious how a story develops.

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The flash of inspiration that comes first – a person, an event, a conceit that needs exploring. Those can seem to come from almost nowhere: they may have their origins somewhere in real life, but the way that concrete experience gets twisted and turned into the beginnings of a work of fiction renders it almost unrecognisable.

But it’s what comes next that really blows my mind. The way the characters start talking to you, offering up little titbits when you least expect it. The way that reading or hearing something completely unrelated seems to jog your memory and fill in an aspect of the plot that hitherto had not quite made sense. The way that you can lay an idea to rest for a while, and when you return you find it is embellished with so many more details that it is hard to believe weren’t always there.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’m making a story up at all, that the events that are unfolding didn’t really happen. Sometimes it feels like the story is there, waiting to be discovered, and I’m just a conduit for a tale that needs to be told.

There was something Capaldi’s Doctor said that provided an explanation for it all that’s pretty hard to argue with:

“Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten”

There are so many stories after all. So many things that happen to people, that people think or do, that get lost in that moment. But what if they’re not lost? What if our job as writers – as storytellers – is to seek them out, to share them? We may not get every detail quite right, but perhaps our goal – through the planning, the drafting and the editing – is to get as close to the truth as possible.

And once all of that falls into place, perhaps that’s when we’ve got our story.

 

Writing Bubble

Q is for queue

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As I was mulling over words to inspire my contribution for the letter ‘q’ I kept being transported back to a very particular place. To a queue I stood in for hours and hours on end on many, many Saturday nights. Well, afternoons really: we were waiting for Whirl-Y-Gig to open, a club I frequented in my teenage years which at the time was held in Shoreditch Town Hall. It kept the rather unusual hours of eight until midnight – handy for sneaking out as a sixteen year old, and a party which people were keen to extend by whichever means they could.

The queue started to form in the middle of the afternoon. Often when we made it there by four or five it would already be snaking down Old Street – people chatting, banging drums, excited about what the night would bring. On the night this photo was taken I’m pretty sure we’d arrived early and made it to the steps of the town hall itself. This was the most coveted spot, the place you’d find the most hardened regulars, where you could look down over the pavement as the queue and the anticipation began to build. I vaguely remember dancing to The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ as it blasted out of someone’s battered ghetto blaster.

Once we were inside it really was as if we’d been taken to another dimension. Colours and music and lights and rhythm, dancing at the front of the stage as if our lives depended on it. Everyone was so friendly, their hugs and smiles quickly replacing the grey hostility of the London streets we’d left behind.

The streets around Shoreditch Town Hall were very different then. There was The Blue Note in Hoxton Square, the Comedy Cafe and a couple of pubs on Curtain Road, but nothing like the teeming mass of bars and restaurants and wannabe hipsters you find there now. There are even hotdog stalls on Old Street on the weekends, peddling their questionable wares to drunken tourists. A long, long way from how it used to be.

We took less photos then of course. It took me ages to dig this one out, trawling through boxes of old prints, and even then the picture I found was clearer in my imagination than in reality. Not that it wasn’t fun: there’s something quite different about holding physical photographs in your hands rather than just scrolling through images on a screen. I’m still friends with the core group of people I hung out with twenty (!) years ago, and it was pretty awesome to see us as we were then – at parties and festivals, in gardens and parks, cooking and laughing and getting up to no good.

We’re scattered across the globe now, from London to LA to Osaka, but there’s a bond that was formed by adventures like standing in line for hours on a grimy street in East London that I don’t think will ever be broken.

Q is for queue.

 

Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast.  

Word of the Week: Bear

The word that sums up this week for me is:

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It’s Arthur’s word really – the latest he’s added to his ever-growing vocabulary. It began, as most words do, with copying. Then yesterday morning he rolled over and woke up in the cot which is still attached to the side of our bed, picked up one of his teddies, smiled at me and said ‘bear’.

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It’s not the word itself though that makes it so significant, but rather the thing he’s attaching it to. Teggy (as I creatively named him as a child) has been my bear since I was a tiny baby. He went everywhere with me, well into my teens. Even when I moved out of home Teggy came with me. I knew I was far too old for such things but to have him there was strangely comforting.

Having a baby finally ousted my childhood companion from my bed, and he’s sat forlornly on the radiator for most of the past year. Until one day Arthur noticed him, and held up his arms for a cuddle.

I love the idea that Teggy might become Arthur’s bear: though he’s definitely showing the wear and tear you’d expect from his 35 years he’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

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(Oh, and before anyone says anything, I realise ‘he’s’ wearing a dress in this last pic. I always did have a rather fluid sense of gender as a child…)

The Reading Residence