Friday, October 21, 2011

Nostalgia, Thy Name is Autumn

It's turning out to be a gorgeous fall here in DC. This town, to my mind, is a gross, cement-lined mosquito nest of seething humidity for 3/4 of the year. On top of that, it's filled with busy-body technocrats who dress head-to-toe in black/gray/grayish black clothes. Honestly, you sometimes don't know whether you're following a funeral procession or people on their way to work.

But come fall each year, a cool wind blows in, the trees blaze up into reds and golds, and the whole place becomes awesome.

Nostalgia, thy name is Autumn. Hell yes it is.

I've always liked the Autumn. It's a time of death before renewal. There's something instructive in that. Something that lets us know on an intuitive level that after the Fall comes a rebirth of sorts. It unsettles us with its burst of beauty, its shrivel and decay, and its promise of a new, brighter world to come.

As authors, it's important for us to understand nostalgia. We should respect it, not toss it aside as base sentimentality. Because to me, the best books tap a reader's well of pleasant recollections, most especially from childhood. We should open our minds to what we've loved and lost, and try to recapture it in our writing. Because others will sense this sharp, sweet sense of loss too, and it will remind them of their own humanity if we do it right.

Communining with others in this most human way is what great writing is all about. Whether you're writing a post-modern novel or a picture book, your vulnerability has to be on every page, in every word. And nothing will make you feel more vulnerable than the pinch of nostalgia.


  1. Beautiful page content here. I'm actually floored. I will tell my mates.

  2. Thanks! Much appreciated.