Mike Fox, writer of short stories
About five years ago I started writing short stories again after a gap of several decades. That gap was a big mistake, but at least it was filled with things that might not have happened if I was sitting at a writing desk. I've come to feel that imagination, mine anyway, works best when it's anchored in lived experience.
If you work as a therapist, as I have until recently, you might come to the conclusion that we’re all built from memories. And the building is always changing: new rooms, new windows, even different foundations. The exploration of memory, as a theme and phenomenon, was a lot of what drew me back to writing: first articles deriving from my therapeutic work, then to the different creative possibilities involved in writing fiction.
Memory is a shapeshifter: almost never identical in any two people, always reconfiguring as the axis of remembering shifts. Does your life change because you change the way you describe it? Do you change if you change how you describe yourself?
As memories accumulate they alter how we see things. I’m interested in exploring the frames of reference that are available at different times of life, the contrasting perspectives of an older and younger self, what we aspire to when young and value in retrospect. Not always the same thing.
Lately I've found myself revisiting themes I've already explored but from a fresh viewpoint, or taking the first few paragraphs of an old story and going somewhere new. I always try to write honestly, in the sense of describing my characters as I best understand them, but am often surprised at how different the outcome can be as a result.
Which raises the question of truth. Even when we try to tell the truth, it’s our truth, coloured by who we are, what we’ve done, and what we understand at the time of telling. Listening to so many stories, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all, in our own way, unreliable narrators. So my characters try to describe the truth. But it’s their truth from their immediate perspective, and if you asked them tomorrow, they might say something different.
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