Sunday, January 10, 2010

Voice from the past

A post on Tim Love's blog reminds me of something I was going to blog about a while back, but then never got round to:

One day, out of the blue, he sent me an email with this picture attached:

It's a passage from my second-ever published short story (in an Arts Council anthology), which Tim explains on his blog he copied out at the time and filed away as, I'm flattered to report, a source of inspiration. But receiving it like that gave me a real shock. It was a very long time since that publication, and of course I had never seen it in that form, written out in someone else's handwriting, so I didn't at first recognize it on any conscious level. Yet of course, because they were my own words, I did on another level recognize them, and I had the weirdest, most unsettling sensation: a very strong sense of guilt, of being caught out, of my own deeds coming home to roost! (Not sure what else that says about me - best to skip over it, maybe!).

In fact a similar thing had happened to me once before. Someone once rang me up, and instead of saying hello he plunged straight in and read out to me a line from another story, in fact the very first story I ever had published (in the Transatlantic Review). He did it to show me how good he thought it was, and his attitude was entirely admiring, and I'm sure he didn't sound like a heavy breather, but that was exactly how I took it. Once again I didn't immediately recognize those words of my own out of context, in his voice (and a few years after I'd published them), but I felt found out, cornered, and the words sounded somehow obscene (they weren't!), and I did miss a heartbeat or two.

They were interesting experiences of how your written words, while still a deep part of you, can become something quite separate with the power to shock you...


Rachel Fenton said...

That's really interesting. Often I come accross things I've written and I think - did I write that? Usually because it's either too "good" or more often too "bad"!!

Elizabeth Baines said...

Weird, isn't it, Rachel?

litrefs said...

"a very strong sense of guilt, of being caught out"
I've felt that too - as if suddenly realising that while I'd been doing something private, others had been watching me and even talking about it.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Yes, that's very good way of putting how it felt!