Monday, December 17, 2012

Writing your childhood

I'm reading a book about going camping in the 70s (The tent, the bucket, and me). The writing is witty, bright and detailed. I'm sure that the author doesn't actually remember the details herself of events from when she was just four years old; there'll be a good dose of imagination as well, I'm sure, as familial interrogation.

So how do you write your childhood? Yes, you were there, but your perspective would be totally different at the time compared to how you may remember things in later life. I know, for example, that a lot of my stories from childhood are based around constructed memories: things that I know happened and have been recounted as stories. So are my memories from the events, or the retelling?

I'm not sure how it works, but I do know that it takes a good writer to make it feel genuine.

I thought, then, about how I might write something from my own childhood. For example, a family holiday, or a particular event. How would I collect the information that goes with the memory? Most of the people of my childhood are no longer around, apart from my mother.  I do need to talk to her more about her life - she has some amazing stories to tell. But I doubt if any of them relating to my childhood are particularly entertaining.

It's taken me a couple of hours, and I've written about 1500 words about my childhood, and I discover that my style is very wordy and not particularly amusing. I am caught up in detail, and one though leads to another so that the narrative is long and not very structured. But it's been an interesting adventure, writing with the thought of being read, rather than just writing for my own pleasure.

As a writer, I still have so much to learn, but I do understand that your own life isn't really interesting to anyone else, and to make it entertaining you have to be creative (not necessarily fictional) and apply your imagination so that whatever you are saying, there is a reason, pace and outcome to the piece. I don't think I've succeeded yet, but at least I understand what is needed. I'll post an excerpt, and then I'll revise it in future.
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