I was at a writing workshop this weekend and one exercise involved writing about our childhood homes. When the first few pieces were read out they involved anecdotes of family arguments and illness etc.
Some of the people involved grew up during the War, so it’s not surprising that there were some bad memories, but the tutor commented that her experience shows the vast majority of people will write something negative. I suppose this ties in with the fact that first memories are often of some traumatic experience.
What I wrote on Saturday was fairly positive or, at worst, objective: being literal minded, I wrote about the home itself, in a London suburb – starting with the red brick façade, then the different types of roses that grew in circular beds in the garden and how we’d empty the tea pot and bury banana skins under them to make them grow, the dark-leaved euonymous hedge that had a tendence to be thick with caterpillar silk, and the small pane of stained glass alongside the front door.
I was reminded of another workshop exercise some years ago with a different tutor where we were asked to think of an abstract noun. Among the despair, stress, anger, anxiety and fear, my own choice of happiness seemed sadly superficial.
As for the picture – taken Friday afternoon en route to the course – does it matter if the glass is half full or half empty? After all, there’s a little wine in it still, the sun is shining, and there is water with boats as a backdrop.
10 thoughts on “the bright side”
I have almost entirely happy memories of early childhood, but no doubt there are killjoys who would insist that I’m suppressing something nasty that I saw in the woodshed.
As for whether the glass is half empty or half full, that depends on whose turn it is to buy the next one.
Perhaps our suppressed woodshed memories* are what populates our poetry with psychopaths and cat killers.
And it’s your turn to get the drinks in.
*not the same woodshed, I hasten to add!
In our day, we was dirt poor, but at least we never ‘ad to share t’ woodshed.
And it’s your turn to buy lunch. Ooh look! Beluga!
Are you calling me a whale?!
I think that means no lunch. And probably no drinks either.
Unless you’re paying, of course.
I always found my childhood to be devastatingly unfair. Overall, I had very little to complain about, and had to pick and choose bits to exaggerate for sympathy.
Luckily my teenage years paid that back with interest or I’d have nothing to write about.
Surely you aren’t suggesting that what we write is based on personal experience?
Not here on Don’t Confuse the Narrator ?!?!
It’s at this point in such discussions that I always like to point out that I have no personal experience of being the Emperor Tiberius I, despite having written a twelve-line effort with rather forced rhymes from his POV.
That would be true only if the reader was able to differentiate the difference between the Narrator and the Author. A skilled Narrator is able to obfuscate their real feelings with their projected reality based upon their actual experienced reality. One that has little suffering to begin with is rarely able to adequately explore such feelings. One that has suffered, even in ways trivial to others, is able to manipulate those experiences to the point in which they may designate experiences that are foreign to the author.
One must also postulate, as Sun Tsu implies, that the control of the battleground is fifty percent of the battle, and so by altering the author’s figure in the narrator, the narrator will, by necessity, take on a viewpoint alien to that of the author, and colour his impressions alternately.
(Grief…I have to stop watching those Victorian speech reference videos)
If the reader differentiated between the narrator and the author without having to be constantly reminded of the need to do so, I wouldn’t have named my blog like this, would I?
The idea of SunTzu pontificating about strategy alongside the aspidistras in a Victorian parlour leaves me mildly bemused, but that’s not unusual.