Monday, June 12, 2006

Can you imagine before you see?

Yesterday I was reading an extract from Mary Gellhorn's Letters in the Sunday Telegraph. Mary Gellhorn was a journalist and briefly married to Ernest Hemingway. In the letter that she wrote to Mehingway shortly before they ended their marriage she says: deviously, everything I have ever written has come through journalism first, every book I mean; since I am not Jane Austen nor the Bronte sisters and I have to see before I can imagine.

Seeing before imagining. I have never thought of it before. Which do I do? I think a combination of both. there are times when seeing something can aid writing no end. Places often have a special feel about them, but many of the places I describe exist nowhere outside my imagination. They are things I have created based on research but htey are not actual.

I can remember when I was at Carleton, and taking a modern literature course (this was not a happy experiencebtw) but we did have to keep a journal of images. Now, it never occurred to me NOT to write down the images I had in my brain. After all they were far more intersting than the simple things I saw when walking through a Minnesota winerscape. I did get asked thoogh -- where I had seen some of the images...I can't remember if I ever did admit it to the professor though.

I suspect the neeed to see before one can imagine explains why some people are more suited to non fiction writing than fiction writing. But I thought it interesting.

IN other news:
The naughtly duck has reappeared with three ducklings. We had to drop everything this morning, herd them into the pen and rapidly construct a crow exclusion zone. Now I am left with a dilemma. I can not pout all the ducks into the pen and keep them locked up for weeks on end. It did my back in and it was not any good for the ducks. I suspect the answer is going to be to build a sepearte enclosure for the naughty duck and her ducklings. Then when they are old enough to allow them the free run of the garden. It is the only thing that makes sense...But n ot what I need when the bee inspector is arriving, the decoartor is here, and most importnatly I am on the last 15k of my wip and all I want to do is write.


Anonymous said...

That's a really interesting question, Michelle. I think with me it's a bit of both. The first scene of a book always comes fully formed, and I know what my characters are like. But I do sometimes pinch bits of real life for settings or as a springboard for 'what if...?' plotting. Just been tweaking my Med (set in your part of the world) and I had to include my experience of the rose garden at Alnwick, because it's still so vivid 2 years later.

Anonymous said...

I think seeing history makes it all the more real. Nothing inspires me more than castle ruins. It's fascinating!

Anonymous said...

PS BEE INSPECTOR? Apart from the fact that you've just made a lightbulb ping *g*, you've intrigued me. What is a bee inspector and his/her function?

Michelle Styles said...

A bee inspector is a man (or woman) from DEFRA who inspects the bee colonies peridiocally for notifiable diseases such as American Foul Brood or EuropeonFoul Brood. If discovers the affected hives have to be destroyed. They also give general help and advice on management of bee colonies, in particular with regards to varroa infestation.
My colonies are wonderfully healthy, well maintained and all went well except the inspector forgot to do up his veil and got stung twice.
Fingers crossed, we should have tons of honey this year.