As a kid, I soaked up stuff like a sponge... All kinds of stuff, any kind of stuff; sometimes I still surprise myself with the odd bits of very specific knowledge I accumulated along the way, usually when I happen to overhear a quiz question on the telly, or when I’m playing Trivial Pursuit with the kids. I even remember the once dort proclaiming, “Mummy, you know EVERYTHING!”
I do wish it was still possible to impress my grown-up children, but I guess you can’t have everything.
Anyway, somewhere along the line, sometime around having the children and becoming domesticated, I lost that capacity for simple, unconscious information gathering. Then, sometime around the point at which I was doing a decent amount of editing, I actually taught myself to let go of things, to shove them out of my head to make way for new stuff. You can’t have the old book and the old rules in your head when you begin a new one with an entirely new set of rules; it just makes things too difficult.
Of course, I’m now approaching middle-age (and you people at the back can stop sniggering, thank you very much), and I appear to be stuck with the legacy of those years working for other people. I appear to be utterly incapable of remembering anything. I still do first edits on everything the husband produces, and, once done, I can’t remember the details of any of his books; damn it, I can’t remember the plots, either, or the names of any but the most major characters.
Yesterday, I sat down to begin a new story of my own, and, yes, you guessed it, it follows on from a story that I wrote a year or so ago, and could I remember what the hell happened in it? Well, sort of. I couldn’t remember the order or the detail, and, yes, you guessed it again, I couldn’t remember the names of any but the key characters, either.
So, I gave up... Not on writing the new story, but I did give up on trying to remember; I gave up on trying to remember, and I pulled up the old story, and I sat down and read it.
Obviously, this takes time and energy, and it shortens my writing day, and there is an element of frustration and even worry attached to the idea that I can’t even remember my own work. Am I going senile? Do I have early onset Alzheimer’s? That sort of thing.
There is, however, an up-side.
There is something pretty amazing about coming to your own work with a truly fresh eye. There is something lovely about reading something you know that you wrote as if it was written by someone else, and when you like it, when you think it’s good stuff, when the prose is well-paced and the characters are compelling it really does put a smile on your face, I can tell you.
It certainly put a smile on my face, and it really gave me the impetus to begin this new story. Talking of which...