Writing Practice and Meeting up with your MUSE
Writing Leap #57
Writers and the Pleasure of Nostalgia
Hi Writers Out There,
Does your mind ever float back into the folds of an old memory and you feel yourself grinning, or wincing or blushing? Can you capture that feeling before it flies off, a little hovering bird, half glimpsed, that disappears into a cloud? I like to ground the feeling of the memory with quick notes to be filled out later. It’s great writing practice to take these jottings and turn them into a little personal essay. Just for the pleasure of trying to write something well. And the pleasure of having written it.
When I’m tired, or disappointed in a book I’m reading, or for no reason, I sometimes reach for one of my old Nancy Drew mystery books from my childhood. Mine are the original Nancy Drew’s with slightly torn book jackets. There she is on the covers, Nancy Drew Girl Detective, with her high heels and bouncy blond hair tied with a bow, creeping up on some unsavory character. How I love these books. Yes, yes, despite all the adverbs and Nancy’s perfection in every way, I love them.
I was so taken with these mystery books as a child and rereading them now rekindles the flush of that same pleasure. I veer towards being a literary snob and normally I would never enjoy such writing as, “The gypsy Anton smiled evilly at Nancy.” Or, “So! He said gloatingly.” But when I’m reading Nancy Drew the adverbs just amuse me. You say, “But Nancy Drew? Please. She’s just a cardboard character, polite and nice with gumption.” I say, “Who cares?” You say, “But you never know what she’s feeling,” and I say, “Who cares?”
When Nancy barges into forbidden gypsy camps to look for a nasty thief who threatens her, I barge in with her all over again, remembering myself at ten years old curled up in a big armchair, lost in the drama. Oh, Nancy is fearless! Her lawyer father, Carson Drew, bless him, recognizes and marvels at her unique sleuthing abilities. I love that he is so proud of her, that he encourages her, that he gives her cases to pursue. “I trust your judgment, Nancy,” he says. He’s the papa bear who lets his little cub (a girl! and it’s the 1940’s) explore the forest on her own, always a phone call away.
There have been many modernized editions of Nancy Drew, written by several authors, all called Carolyn Keene. I would never read one. In the newer versions the images and language of Nancy Drew’s world are more contemporary. What brings me back to that armchair where the ten-year-old me imagined what it was like to have the spunk of Nancy Drew is the flavor of the language and the old-fashioned images in the original versions.
As in The Clue in the Old Album, where Nancy’s friends, George (a girl) and Beth say, “We’re not as good sailors as you, Nancy. Your spirit would win anything for you.” Nancy replies, “No. You’re grand sailors.”
When a telephone operator’s voice cuts into Nancy’s call she hears, “Your time is up. If you wish to talk longer, deposit five cents please.”
Or, the description of Nancy’s sort-of boyfriend. He pops up once in awhile. We read, “Nick Nickerson was an Emerson college student who had long admired Nancy.” Long admired! Today’s teens might wonder what that meant.
And the best, “Nancy drives a snappy roadster.” It’s the language and sensibility of an era that gets me.
So writers, good feelings from old memories can float in and out of our minds. Capturing one and turning it into a little piece of writing is great writing practice. Nostalgia can be a lovely place to go.
Happy Writing Everybody,
LINKING THE ARTS
Lost in a Book
Good Word: gumption, as in Nancy Drew’s resourcefulness