Sentimentality is both a blessing and a curse.
I’ve demonstrated before to what extent I can cling onto the past in my guest post for Real Bloggers United, “CSI: Chronically Sentimental Individual.” Now, in the spirit of the recently passed Halloween, let’s just say my memories continue to “haunt” me…
But in good ways (hence, a “blessing”), though sometimes they hurt so good (hence, a “curse”). I first conceived this topic last week when my parents’ visit came to an end and they returned Stateside. Though the effect has had a few days to wear off, I remember how I walked home from the tube and almost couldn’t bear how everything I saw reminded me of them because of our recent walks around the neighborhood together. Forget that I’ve traversed that same route for over two years now and between their two visits they haven’t even been in London a total of two months…the memories with them seemed to replace my collective everyday experience. Same went for when I returned to the flat and sobbed over little things like the coffee remaining in the French press that we’d shared earlier that morning. I know, I know…it’s passed now, though tonight I’m jolted with another stroke of sweet sentimentality from home, as I just checked my Facebook messages and saw one from a former student I taught my last year in the States. She was a freshman at the time and is now a grown-up senior about to graduate…simply cannot believe it! My babies! Anyways, she had the sweetest things to say, which made me really pine for those happy teaching years.
In view of such “ghosts” from my past, I find that they appear in some incarnation or another in my writing, perhaps in special homage of these special people and moments. “Write what you know,” they always say, and I do, knowing full well I am clearly not alone. I’m constantly reading intros to novels that state how they’re the “most autobiographical” of the author’s works, and, really, isn’t every work of fiction arguably so? Just ways of telling our truths “slant”?
At the time I started my current manuscript, I was in need of emotional healing to follow leaving home and career, so the tale I began to spin was much more so a “therapy” than an ambition. I didn’t care if it was unoriginal; I let my first chapters draw very much from my own background, which resurrected the spirit of my earlier happiness and allowed it drift and swirl around me in my new atmosphere. The words brought it alive, brought the people and the values back to me and reminded me who I was in an otherwise unfamiliar context that sapped me of purpose. The story certainly evolved from there into a terrain highly unlike anything on which I myself have embarked, but those early chapters gave my protagonist her core, and in doing so assured me of mine.
Among the sentimental inspirations from real life, there are very direct ones that creep up in sentences reflecting the comforting closeness of my family like:
“They weren’t the stuff best-sellers and blockbusters were made of, and prayed they never would emulate what society spent its money on or turned its channel to.”
“Her mom multi-tasked concern for her child with rescuing bacon strips from their spitting inferno. She wore her short, hairsprayed curls like a helmet ready to combat any threats to her family head-on.”
I’ve also incorporated actual snippets from childhood diaries and adulthood travel journals. Plucked entirely out of their original contexts, though, it’s crazy the way they fit in and communicate something entirely new and different and had inspired new offshoots of sheerly imaginative thought, not that from experience. It’s been like dismantling a clock and using some of its gears to operate, ooh, maybe something like the Happiness Machine in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine (which, in keeping with our theme here, is a valentine to Bradbury’s own childhood).
It’s all about our frames of reference. No one could possibly perceive the world in exactly the same way that we do individually because we occupy separate space and move differently through it. This gives us our own private reality, then, and this is what writers constantly tap into to construct their fictional realities. And there’s more I’d like to say on this, but am realizing this is getting long, so I’ll break it into two parts. Fair enough? Cool. See you tomorrow.