As writers, we are always on the lookout for fertile ideas. We understand, engage and exercise our ‘periphery’ very well. We casually flick our eyes, showing an interest in our world and the community we live in, much like everyone else, but for writers (and artists), it goes that little deeper; there’s an underlying hunger to really understand what makes things/us, tick. Writers pick up lots- in fact more accurately, we unpick things all the time, striving to go deeper; exploring meta-communication, meta feelings and the like. And then we use our skills to shine a light on what we’ve found.
We listen to our dear friends, our families, acquaintances and strangers, absorbing as much as we can. When the outrageous, peculiar, funny, shocking or embarrassing, come our way, we jot these down and squirrel it away, hopefully, to become part of another story. We use this material so long as we do not attribute, identify or leave vulnerable traces that can cause distress or harm. The threat of being sued keeps us in check anyway.
But do we shine a light on our own deeply embarrassing moments? Are we brave enough to use incidents that we still haven’t got over, despite dressing and trussing them up so meticulously- though what for; readers aren’t going to know it was you who tried to snog (tongue, actually) a photograph of someone you fancied who, right at that snog moment, happened to walk in on you doing it.
They are not going to know that, despite being drunk in your story, you were in fact, as sober as a nun at the time. And those that were present when it happened? Confess, there were others there. Well, you can’t hide it from them, can you?. All that is achieved in the embellishment is the equivalent of waving a red flag to the faux pas or placing an ‘X’ marks the spot right across the page. See that car that you ran over yourself with? You’re about to reverse and run over yourself again, with swinging furry dice a-flailing.
Do these embarrassing moments have to be ‘exorcised’ out of our heads before we can play with them in our writing?
I have read that if there is a tune in your head that just won’t go away, then it’s best to play the tune out in your head, right to the very end, or memorize the ending of the tune to break the loop, as the human brain has a tendency to remember incomplete activities. It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect.
Maybe this could be applied to our embarrassing moments? If we are brave enough to stop shutting our brains down at the merest whiff of an embarrassing recall, and ride through the discomfort of it again and again in our heads, then maybe it will cease to torture us, bothering us less. Maybe then it can be used as material in our writing.
So what do you do with personal embarrassing moments? Could you use this technique? Would you want to anyway?
What do you think? Or do you use yours regardless?
By the way, I made that up. About the tongue thing.