Memory is a strange thing. I have a special gift for forgetting - names mainly - I long ago mastered the art of the no introduction introduction, but it seems I have achieved a similar level of advanced forgetfulness about my own writing. Long ago, when I was good at exams I trained myself to forget the paper once It was done, as a kind of protective mechanism so I didn’t worry about my mistakes. Useful though that may have been to my teenage self’s mental health, it set an unfortunate precedent and I forget whatever I’ve written pretty much as soon as I’ve done it. I don’t remember the names of characters and I literally lose the plot.
I find this irritating especially for those books which I researched. It’s like my mind is sand – washed clean at the end of every project. I must have seemed an air head when I was young and now I give an excellent impression of a half demented old bat. There is an upside, however. I recently reread a couple of old books of mine and thoroughly enjoyed them, not least because I did not remember what was coming next.I know that you are supposed to be more critical of old work. I think you are supposed to be clinical, professional, point out all the things that could have been better done. I feel no such obligation as, predictably, although I vaguely remember writing the books and indeed how I felt about the process, I retain almost nothing of the details. They could have been written by someone else, albeit a someone else who knew how to tell a story ideally suited to please me. I don’t think that someone was a bad writer either. I’d definitely read more of her work.
Now and again I came across a passage I have often read aloud for a school visit or something and that briefly jarred me from childlike immersion in my own story, but for the most part, I was lost in my own imagination.
I mention this for two reasons. The first is obvious, a small part of me feels it would be good to promote myself and point out that these old books are still worth reading. The second is that If anyone had asked, I would have said that I am very much the same writer I’ve always been. I’m not sure that’s true. Those stories came from a particular point in my life, a certain stage in my mothering, a particular political moment. It’s not that I would want to write them differently because I’d want to write them better, more that if I were to write them now they would become different stories because I’m different. It will be interesting to see if that’s how I remember them in future.