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Memory’s Museum of Curiosities

Image: Jon Butterworth

Most writers, at some point in their writing lives, will have sat despondently, notepad in lap, or in the blue light of a computer screen, and thought I’ve got nothing left to write about.

Whether we write fiction, creative non-fiction or poetry, it sometimes feels as though we’ve documented all the highs and lows of childhood, the successes and failures at school, the debauched college parties, the first job offer, the first love story, the wounds of parting, the proud and painful moments of parenting, the mid-life crisis, the fight with ill health, the onset of old age, and the grieving of a loved one.

We foreground these ‘big beasts’ in the guidebook to our lives - the written equivalents of Dippy the Dinosaur in the Natural History Museum, the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, the Mummies in Cairo, or the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. These are the crowd-pulling treasures in our memory’s Museum of Curiosities, and we’ve given our readers repeated guided tours. If we’re beginning to feel that we’re showcasing the same old exhibits, that we’ve run out of subject matter, it’s time to curate some changes.

What other priceless antiquities have we hidden away in our museum? When was the last time we visited the galleries furthest from the entrance, the empty halls on the top floor and the darkened alcoves underneath street level – the ones with the locked doors marked ‘Authorised Persons Only’?

Try envisaging your new galleries. Steal some ideas from other great museums. For instance, what’s in the glazed exhibition cases on your Ceramics floor? The souvenir teapot you couldn’t throw away, the wedding present dinner service you’ve never used, or the intriguing shard of blue of white pottery you unearthed while digging the garden? Archaeologists often start their stories with broken pots. Perhaps us writers should do the same!

Or how about borrowing an idea from Madame Tussaud’s – the Chamber of Horrors. Create a diorama of your worst nightmare, display the most painful torture you’ve ever endured, or mould a waxwork model of the ghost that floats through your bedroom wall.

We have a lifetime of artefacts that are unique to us, (physical items and recalled moments), but have those aforementioned big ticket items overshadowed everything else? Don’t forget, yesterday’s ‘find’ is just as interesting as something that’s been in the archives for decades.

As writers, we decide what’s in our museum’s new gallery on the top floor. We get to choose our new exhibits from the millions hidden away in the vaults, and we get to write what goes on the wall plaques behind the display case. We are the curators of own weird and wonderful. So make a start. Dust off some of those curios that have never seen the light of day and pull in the eager crowds!

And in case you hadn’t visited the Natural History Museum in London recently, Dippy the Dinosaur has been replaced by a Blue Whale!

The submission theme for our Autumn 21 issue is COAST. We close for submissions on 25th July 2021

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