Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Is Living Twice

You want to write about the past. You need to write about it. Can you bear the feelings that come with going back? As an editor once said to me, "Writing is living twice."

Can you write about the day your big brother slung an arm around your shoulder and asked, "Hey, little sister, how about a game of cards?" And you wondered . . why? Why would this handsome guy who has girls hanging all over him want to spend time with an ugly girl like me?

Now you know better.  You know you are beautiful and your story worth telling.  Little sister is all grown up.

When I wrote about the past, I felt drained, transported, elated, melancholic. Be prepared for the feelings. Be prepared to bawl your eyes out.  Be prepared to turn your heart inside out.

Writing memories is living twice, maybe more poignantly. If a tsunami is about to wash over you, put the pen down, close the laptop. Decompress. Take a walk. Come back to it when you are ready. It's not going anywhere.

This is your memory, your magic.  It's your life and it's worth parsing over, marinating, reliving . . . everything people tell you that you shouldn't do.  Why live in the past, they ask?  What's the use?  What's the sense?  You know why and if they don't, that's their problem.

As Virginia Woolf so eloquently put it:

“I can only note that the past is beautiful
because one never realizes an emotion at the time.
It expands later, and thus
we don't have complete emotions about the present,
only about the past....
That is why we dwell on the past, I think.”

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