Inspired from the Past

July 24, 2010

Both my work and my avocation frequently bring me into contact with historical materials.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some items from a woman writer who lived in the early part of the twentieth century. It has been fascinating to me to read her letters and her actual writings, to see her working process – scribbles, scratches, and all – and to recognize a fellow female writer across time.

I don’t know much about her. [name witheld for both personal and professional reasons]  She’s no major novelist or playwright or poet that I can tell. But that makes her the more admirable, to me.

I’ve read her rejection letters. “Not for us at this time.”  “Does not meet our needs.” “Our readers would have been interested last year, but now it is passe.”  And then the rejection letter with a dash of encouragement tossed in: “Oh, but do send us something again. Perhaps something with a little more plot?”  That made me laugh out loud – but I can only imagine how sad and frustrating it must have been for the author.

She clearly continued to write. That spunk to continue to write, despite the rejections, I find inspiring. It is obvious it was her passion. I think I would have liked to have known her. She seems like she may have been a suffragist. She was a career woman – in a time when most women did not have careers. It seems like she must have traveled, too.

It has been fun looking at her writings and correspondence, because even though she is long gone and probably unremembered (she had no family), I feel it is a privilege to learn more about her, and be inspired by her work and her persistance and tenacity – even if she never did make it big.

That tells me writing is ALWAYS worth it!

© writingreading, 2010


When Old News is New News

July 22, 2010

I’m sure there must be a name for it, though I don’t know what it is.

I’m talking about the phenomena of finding out something, long after the fact, and feeling a shock as if the event just occurred.

For instance, just tonight, I learned that one of my favorite university presses almost got shut down last year. Last year, mind you. But the shock, worry, and sadness that I feel at this news (even though it is old news) is fresh and real.

A few years ago, I learned more details – maybe too many details, about a friend’s death more than 10 years earlier. I knew she had died, and knew in a general sense what had happened. But when I read a lengthy news article about what had happened – the shock and grief and sadness were all very real, in the present. I was shook up for at least a week, maybe longer. And my grief was made more complex because no one else was grieving this loss – to them, it was all long ago. To me, it was as if her death had just occurred.

I ponder these things because I find it interesting in a philosophical sense how “old news” can have such an emotional impact in the present.  I also have to believe this phenomenon has a name or term to describe it.

I also think something along these lines might make an interesting story line for a short story or maybe even a novel, about a main character who has her world turned upside down by finding out “old news” and its impact on her present life. I’ll have to think on that one, some more.

© writingreading, 2010