“It might be your own past, or even just the tomb of someone you’d forgotten and who, awakened from the deep slumber of oblivion, comes to life and steps onto the page and, like a magician, plucks out of the air something amazing for you to write about.
“But attempt this too early and you’ll turn up only familiar things, fresh memories not yet ripened by time.
“Experience really demands a degree of strangeness before one can write about it. We need to outgrow the person we were way back then in order to see him whole.”
J.P. Smith has a lovely essay at The Millions about memory, writing and the personal excavations we all undertake, either consciously or not.