In a way it is a very personal paper as she talks about how she dealt with her son being in a coma following an unprovoked attack. She talks candidly about how one of her coping mechanisms was for part of her brain, which she calls the 'recording device', to start taking notes of what was going on around her, '...observing the particular sounds and smells and colour...' And this was the part that resonated with me. I have had these moments where my 'recording device' has started, moments of desperation, grief, pain, fear, anger. It can be in the midst of fights, watching death visit, or watching those you love in so much pain (physical and mental) and you can't save them from it. You notice the small, seemingly insignificant details: a white feather, a globule of spittle, the fear in someone's eyes. All of which at a later date can bring to life a piece of writing. Because that's what we do when we are writers.
Jen repeats Graham Greene's maxim: 'There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer' (from his autobiography A Sort of Life, 1971). He says, as writers we watch and listen even if we are in the midst of it. There will always be a part of us that has stepped aside and is watching events unfold. As Jen says of her observations in hospital, 'This was something one day which I might need.' I can honestly say that there are two incidents that come to mind immediately where I can remember actually thinking, you must remember what this feels like. A version of one incident ended up in Disjointed. The other hasn't found its place - yet. Jen, quite rightly, points out that, as writers, we do it like a reflex and that she could not have 'not-done it'. It is something writers do, we eavesdrop, we watch and we take notes. 'The world is our data source, our archive...'
Judgement will always need to be made as to whether something should or should not be included. The incident that made it into Disjointed, for example, couldn't of got there without me discussing it with the relevant person. People were unlikely to recognise it, as it was a very personal moment, but there was always the risk. I needed to know they were happy with me including it. There are, as can be seen by this and Jen's article, ethics involved. Decisions to be made. I particularly like Jen's idea, which picks up on Diamonds thoughts, when she says, 'This is the work of a writer, and a writer writing ethically: seeing nonsense; imaginatively entering into it; making it have meaning.' Because, for me, this is what I do with all these notes and small details that are written on that splinter of ice in my heart - I give them meaning and use them to make stories for others.
How about you? Have you had the 'recording device' announce itself at inopportune moments?
There are so many people I would like to say this to at the moment