Moving house just after Christmas is not the ideal situation. Christmas dinner will be a stark affair with the house packed up and no tree. Solicitors will be having their staff parties and winding down, while we anxiously wait for the paperwork to be finalised. Getting things organised and delivered over the Christmas period is never easy either.
Despite all that, I’m plodding on, overwhelmed by all the things I have to do and not a single present bought. My first task has been to clear out the loft. It filled up a whole double bedroom and it’s taken me over two weeks now and I’ve hardly made a dent in it.
What’s Taking So Long?
It’s taking me ages to do, because the loft is full of memories that can’t be discarded in a flash. Some memories that I want to keep close to my heart and some that I don’t. There are cherished memories such as the baby wristbands and even the umbilical cord clips for both my children, and their first tiny bootees. All the things that they ever made me, pictures they drew and cards full of ‘love you mum’. The first shell they picked up on their first beach holiday, first party dress, school reports and the cot blankets I embroidered for them. Warm and fuzzy memories. Moments that you think are forgotten, but come flooding back.
I’ve saved every Valentine, Anniversary and Birthday card from my husband too. I’d forgotten how romantic he could be. He still is, but after 16 years, not with the same fervour! The little notes, reminders of things we went through in the early days when life was tough. The troubles we had combining two sets of children who weren’t in love with each other like we were.
How Does This Help Writing?
All these feelings, situations encountered and memories can be harnessed and put into your writing. It’s a crash course on emotions whether they are happy or sad.
Among the happy reminiscing are memories I want to shred. My divorce papers, my old wedding dress (gosh I am such a hoarder), the reams of medical paperwork when my husband broke his back in five places, the court case where an ex-policeman conned me out of a large sum of money – that was one I had to let go of a long time ago. Feelings and emotions on the other end of the spectrum: worry, anger, disappointment and conflict – all of which has a place in writing. Perhaps my next villain could be that ex-policeman, but in my story he gets his come-uppance instead of walking away scot free with £15,000 of my money as he did!
I find the boxes from my own childhood, but the one thing I want to find, my childhood teddy, is not there, but my doll is and still has the nail varnish that my sister painted on her lips to annoy me. A woven bag from my Greek Aunty Georgina given to me when I was four or five, holds photos and sketches I drew and love letters from French boyfriends. Postcards from French pen pals too – was this an early sign that one day I would be moving to France? I laugh as I find the postcards of men I used to drool over as a teenager – Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Tom Selleck (Magnum) and Richard Gere (American Gigolo).
Luckily the bad childhood memories aren’t in the boxes, they’re locked away in another box inside of me.
Those Cringe-Worthy Mullets!
I find photos of times forgotten. A picture of my sister and I in what can only be described as blue space suits – what was mum thinking? Haircuts that looked like a bowl had been placed on our heads and haphazardly cut around. As we got older the bowl style was replaced by permed mullets. We all had them, the men and the women – go on admit it, I bet you did too!
I find my college photo – you know the sort, about a metre long – where they line up the whole year on the playing field and take a panoramic photo. I have only kept in touch with one person from College and yet I am surprised at how many faces I remember. I’m not good with names, but I remember them by their personality traits. There’s the girl everyone fancied, the shy boy, my happy-go-lucky friend with the fuzzy hair, the boy who always walked with his nose in the air, the clever kid with the glasses, the sporty one, the silly giggly girl group and my Spanish teacher who wore very strong perfume. I can’t find my French teacher who always smelled of alcohol and came back from the Gents with pee on his trousers.
In that one photo there are over 100 different people I could write about. I could use their idiosyncrasies to make my characters more real. I wonder what happened to them all?
If you are suffering from writer’s block or just feeling stale, I would wholeheartedly recommend that you clear out your loft and take a trip down memory lane to inspire you.
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