I won’t say I had a hidden past, but some events and relationships of my childhood and adolescence laid dormant for decades. My writing over the last year has uncovered them.
There was the teenager down the street who shot his father, and the day my grandfather fell off the ramp of the moving truck with the dining room hutch on his shoulder. (He jumped right back up, unhurt, or at least he said he was unhurt.) There was the time I nearly catapulted my little nephew into the hospital (long story, that one). I was not looking for them; I had not intended to mine this field.
The search for story led me there. I have written creative fiction for the last five years. For the first four, my stories dealt with characters of my imagination who addressed broad cultural issues. There is nothing incorrect with that approach. Just ask T.C. Boyle.
But lately, as I scan my imagination for stories, I more frequently recall episodes long forgotten, of people from my past. Instead of distilling a broad theme into archetypes, these new stories offer small scenes, featuring those remembered, from which meaning can be inferred.
Beyond that, those scenes intimate feelings and beliefs my psyche chose to bury within my subconscious, things which would have remained buried had not my need to tell stories unearthed them. And perhaps that need was prompted by the pressure of all those events aching to get to the surface.
Already these memories and stories have led me to reevaluate the venues of my adolescence, to view them not as worlds unto themselves, but as places that can be analyzed against the standards of a larger reality. And in that analysis I now see exposed the hatreds and prejudices that then were considered acceptable.
I have begun to look at creative writing as a form of therapy. This is not to say I will indulge in the cardinal sin of beginning writers to pen incessantly and heroically about themselves. But it does mean I will continue to explore this past for insights into my own self, and how the events of that past might illustrate themes and values that others may identify with.
The results so far have been surprising and illuminating.