Stuck? Staring at a blank screen? Never fear…you’ve got all the inspiration you need when you tap into your past.
I recently hit a milestone age that invites gifts of black balloons and gravestone-shaped birthday candles. As I get older, I tend to spend more time wearing a path down memory lane. While it’s easy to get mired in the past, I try to use memories in a constructive way…to inform and inspire my writing today.
Today’s Five Posts to Write Right Now are all nostalgia-based.
1. The place where you felt happiest or safest.
As a teenager, I loved riding in my friend Jack’s Toyota Corolla station wagon. We’d belt out songs from the Evita soundtrack on our way to a New Hampshire, summer-stock production of Man of La Mancha. Would you believe I wasn’t popular in high school? I remember the front seat of that car, with its cassette deck and broken glove box, in vivid detail.
If you had a time machine and could go back to any place, at any time in your life, where would it be? Did you ever return to that place as an adult? If so, was the magic still there?
When aging gets me down, I recall something my dad once said:
“While getting older can be tough, it’s certainly better than the alternative.”
2. An antiquated item like a pay phone you had to dial, penny candy, or your Charlie’s Angels lunch box.
The older I get, the less value I put on objects. But, in childhood, I didn’t have “things,” I had “treasures.” Memories of these items are especially valuable to me, as many of them were lost over the years. Case in point: my yellow Sony Sports Walkman was something I never thought I could live without. I always carried it, along with my Purple Rain and Thriller cassettes.
Did you have a talisman? Was there an object in your childhood home that brings up emotion for you when you think of it? Is there something you wish you could get your hands on now…but isn’t manufactured or attainable anymore?
3. A food that reminds you of your youth.
My family loved a dish called Chicken Chaikind (named after the neighbors who invented the recipe). It was a special night if mom was baking it. As the instructions directed, she poured uncooked, white rice in the bottom of a baking dish, placed raw chicken breasts on top, sprinkled on a Lipton onion soup packet, smothered the whole thing in cream of mushroom soup, and then added a half gallon of orange juice. Wait, what? Yes, good ol’ Minute Maid OJ. Then, the casserole was baked within in inch of its life. I’m not sure why, but we loved it most when the edges were burnt. While I can’t even describe it without wincing now, we loved this meal.
Is there a food that evokes memories of your younger days, of a relationship you had, or of a major event in your past? Have you eaten it since then, or was it a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Relive it, improve upon it, or recall a memorable meal.
4. What you thought you were going to be when you grew up.
As a child, without a shadow of doubt, I knew I was going to be an archaeologist. Thank you, Indiana Jones. I had no idea about the reality of the career…I just knew that I wanted adventure. I liked to travel, I disliked snakes, and I was pretty sure that, if necessary, I could outrun a massive rolling boulder. I even once signed a diary entry, “Dr. Robyn Jones PhD Archaeology.”
Then I majored in theatre in college.
How about you? Did you know what work you’d do as an adult? If so, was it because it was your family business, or because it would get you out of your hometown, or because you’d be able to change the world? What happened…did your dream become a reality?
5. Your childhood fear.
As a young kid, I had three major fears: clowns, ghosts, and that I’d be brutally murdered by my stuffed animals while I slept. Needless to say, I suffered from insomnia, and spent elementary school with bags under my eyes big enough to make a basset hound jealous. My fear of a teddybear rebellion was paralyzing and dramatic, but now seems bizarre and utterly hilarious. Although that whole clown thing? That will never go away. Clowns are terrifying.
How did you manage your biggest fear? Did you overcome it, did it fade away, or does it still haunt you? Do you know why the fear began? Was it a grounded fear, or a ridiculous one? (Mine, of course, were completely based in reality.) What kind of fears held power over you in the past?
Do you often delve into the past to inspire your writing?