How Writing Remembers

Last week, I settled into my table at the library. My table—and woe to anyone else who takes my spot! Another week day romp through my latest novel. This one — a coming-of-age story of a young girl in the 1950s in Oklahoma.

Although my main character is NOT myself, she does experience many of the situations I grew up with — also in the 1950s in Oklahoma. Write what you know, but be willing to research what you don’t know.

But this day was not for sketching my main character and the obstacles she faces. It was more of a reminder of the joy of country living.

My main character is working on a farm during harvest, helping the mother of the family with chores and the always necessary food and snacks. She is hot, because it is June and in the 1950s, central air did not exist on most farms.

There is no dishwasher or dryer. So all the dishes, including multiple pots and pans, are hand-washed and hand-dried. Then the laundry is hung out on the clothesline, keeping watch for sudden thunderstorms. The kitchen smells like bacon, a leftover sensory joy from breakfast. Potatoes are soaking, waiting to be peeled for lunch and dinner. Bread is rising on the gas stove. Its yeasty smell permeates everything.

Even writing about that bread makes me salivate. As a gluten free consumer for many years, I still miss the smell and taste of homemade bread.

I paused in my first draft and flexed the muscles of my right hand. Then closed my eyes and remembered again, the joy of living on a farm. The freedom it represented as I walked through the pasture to bring the cows home, picked fresh produce from the garden, swatted at the wasps who tried to invade our peach orchard, fed scraps to the dog, and watched the sunset stretch across the entire horizon.

How I miss those days with Mom and my sister in the kitchen, Dad and my brother in the field. The putt-putt of the tractor as it headed home. The roar of the combine as the guys readied it for another day harvesting our red winter wheat. The calls of “Come, bossy” before milking and “Here, kitty, kitty” after milking.

The people and the place merged into a giant memory of time, distance, emotions, and loss. After a couple of hours creating my book’s storyline, I headed to the grocery store. Found some pears on sale and HAD to buy one.

Again, the memories flooded in. The line of pear trees on our other farm in the far reaches of the county. How we brought food to the field, then picked the fresh pears that had fallen during the night. Carried them back to the kitchen for easy snacks, pear jam, and a fiber-rich side dish.

Between the pears and the writing, it was easy to disappear into the past. This happens to us writers. We transport ourselves to other worlds. Sci fi and fantasy becomes a future. Historical fiction and memoirs detail us backward into both good and bad scenarios.

But always, always — it is the power of the words that transports wordsmiths, then hopefully, our readers as they travel with us through the story. We find again the beauty of creativity, the power it holds over us, and the possibilities it opens for our readers.

Hope remembers the past with fond details of country life. Hope also moves forward to create, invent, and enjoy a make-believe world.

People often wonder what is the writer’s process? It simply begins with pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Then as the soul adds the creative elements, the process gives life to characters, to time and place. And the process fills the words with hope.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

If you’re struggling to find time to write, check out Finding Your Writing Plan.  

8 thoughts on “How Writing Remembers

  1. Nostalgia is a two edged sword. Especially in our later years. When people we lived with and loved are intermixed in our memories with the mundane sweetness of worldly surroundings. Joyful recollections. The painful sense of loss. All of it worth reflecting upon as we approach the time we too will become memories.

  2. Thank you, RJ, for returning me fresh to the 50s and Oklahoma farm life. Vivid. I was swatting wasps and herding cattle alongside.
    Can’t wait for the read. As someone famously said, ‘Keep writing, your words matter.’
    Freshly stirred, coffee in hand, back to the keyboard!

  3. Beautifully written. My parents had a dairy farm we moved away from when I was only four, but I still remember bits and pieces of it vividly. Life is infinitely precious, and recreating it in words is a perfect way of preserving it. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s