Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Nostalgic Effect

Nostalgia plays a big part in my writing, or should I say, rather, plays a big part in the inspiration of my writing. I used to assume that everyone was nostalgic, but as I've grown older I've begun to realise that some people are and some just aren't. For a start, and not to sterotype, but I've noticed that generally women are more nostalgic than men are.

Recently I celebrated my 40th birthday. Yes, I'm a woman and I just admitted my age. I'm forty and fantastic. Forty is fantastic. I've spent a lot of my life worrying about impressions I make on people and appropriate behaviour for appropriate situations. Generally I'm a shy person. Friends who know me well will shake their heads and say I'm not, but if they recall what I was like when they first met me, they will remember. I was the one who sat in the corner and didn't say much until six months after you got to know me. I'm the turtle who emerges from the shell only when I know it's safe to do so :) When I was in my twenties and thirties I had a very poor self-image. But now that I'm forty I actually feel pretty good about myself.

Many things take me back to when I was younger and feelings associated with those times or events are often very strong. Certain smells remind me of things...the smell of lipstick always reminds me of my paternal grandmother. She always had Ponds and lipstick in the top drawer of her dresser. I inherited this piece of furniture when she passed away, and the drawer kept the smell of her for many years. Sadly, nothing lingers of her now except the memories I will always carry with me.

We lived with my nana for about a year while Dad was building our house in the Kenepuru Sounds and it was a very mixed time for me. I was going on nine. Man, what a time. Dad was away, so it was Mum, Nana and three girls in the house...Oestrogen overload at the best of times. Over the course of this year I found out I had to wear reading glasses, was continually harrassed by the boy who lived across the road, developed a stutter, sprouted breasts and changed schools twice. I often have vivid dreams of my grandmother's house, and looking back now, knowing what I know about spirituality, I'm pretty sure there were more than just the living residing there. When I think of her house, there is a strong connection and feeling of nostalgia that brings about thought-provoking inspiration which is quite apt for certain writing situations it would be a crime not to use them.

Using nostalgia to aid the writing process also keeps me on track with the age old rule: show, don't tell. It prompts me to think about the senses. What does my character see, smell, hear, feel? As a reader, I want to know what the character feels like when she takes off her shoes and walks in the sand. Is the wind blowing through her hair? Is the sun warm on her face? Can she smell the salt in the air, feel the sand between her toes and hear the waves crashing on the shore?

That's the magic to being a writer...I know what's in my head, but I want my reader to feel the same when they see the words on the page...