Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year because it’s when I have all four of my sons together again. Laughs usually follow, when one of them starts up a “remember when” conversation—though occasionally I’ve been shocked to learn of some escapade they were involved in as teenagers. This year, in anticipation of the arrival of my two out-of-state sons, I started thinking of how important memory is, and especially how important it is to writers.
None of us are truly creators. Writers can only share our version of what was, or is, or might be. Though revisionist by nature, if you’re writing memoir, you use memory (could that one be any more obvious?), but even if you write sci-fi, surely you rely on your memory of emotion, actions and interactions for realism.
Are the best writers those with the most memories? Do writers have better than average memory retention? Do our memories inspire us to write in the first place? Is imagination really memory?
4 thoughts on “Writing from Memory”
Very thought provoking. I would guess that it’s probably a combination of things. I only really had the desire to begin writing novels after some difficult personal struggles, so perhaps experience and emotional memory do play a big part in being a good writer. It’s also possible the writers, even young ones, have a deeper well of emotional experience to draw onbecause they are more observant of others interactions, or more studious of the topic they enjoy and pursue (relationships, emotions, imagination). Many writers are avid readers and are consuming mass quantities of “experience” through their reading. Whatever the case, I believe life experience generally improves one’s writing.
I would agree that memory plays a big role in writing. I also believe that writer’s understand human nature, or like Candi was saying emotion. Maybe due to personal experience or vast amounts of reading. I know after having tragedies in my life, I felt I could describe emotion more fully. But I always felt like I could read people well. I don’t know, maybe it’s one of those things that a lot of writer’s have in common.
I have wondered the same thing. I first started thinking up story lines in college but didn’t start writing until recently. Part of me thinks that I just didn’t have enough experience and emotional maturity to do it. I suppose everyone is different.
Dan, maybe we just have to let those thoughts and images ferment for a while … like fine wine.