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Someone once told me a writer should act like a key which opens the door to another world.
While I rather like the analogy it’s my understanding that a writer needs to do more than simply provide a key. Having means to unlock a door simply isn’t enough; you need something to tempt the reader inside. A photograph is a flat rendering of a captured scene but we trust its reality. However, engaging with a story isn’t simply a matter of ‘beam me up Scottie’ and you arrive in another time and place, stories require you to step inside the world of imagination.
Scary thing imagination.
Writing is an infinitesimal spell created out of words and wonder, therefore entering a story requires a certain leap of faith. No matter how well written, or finely observed, nothing in a book will live if the imagination doesn’t commit wholeheartedly to its magic.
Therefore, I believe, the business of writing stories is tantamount to being a magician who conjures with imaginings – an imagineer.
Without imagination not merely stories die, imagining provides a ratchet to our soul.
It isn’t so much dancing in the rain as feeling the water on your face and not getting wet. Isn’t that truly magic?
I’m writing. I write most days but rarely aim to publish. And it seems to me that’s the problem. I love to write but I baulk at publishing, going public. It’s like exposing your soul, I think. But that’s the point surely, writing must be read. And I agree, but not by someone else, it’s mine, secret and safe. Except I’ve recently lost my work-in-progress notebook, worse I think I left it in a hotel in Kelso…someone, a complete stranger, could be rifling through my notes right at this moment and thinking…well I hate to wonder what they might think.
It seems to me there are many reasons why people write. I’m the worst kind, the writer who locks herself away and reels off page after page of passionate prose, and edits it down to a sentence next day. I’m constantly appraising my work, destroying one set of words and replacing them with another. That’s the trouble with word processors, it’s the literary equivalent of a chalk board, but I do scribble copious notes in my notebooks and, truth be told, that’s where the bones of my stories are placed.
Now anyone looking at my desk at this very moment might think I’m in complete and utter meltdown. Although a larger than average desk (it came from a public library) very little green leather surface can be seen because it’s littered with notebooks. But each of these hand-written tomes are used for a different purpose – I keep notes about the craft of writing in one (all the tips ever received from other writers and writing workshops) which obviously I need to check regularly. The second contains source materials and references to facts, so when necessary (and more than once a day) I can find my original sources of research. And then there’s the largest (and the only one with scribblings on every page) which contains the very first outline of my pending novel, except this recently flowed into a second volume, now inconveniently missing.
I’m reminded of a handbag for all the wrong reasons. What handbag? The one in which poor Earnest was deposited when his nurse misplaced him for her novel. That poor woman went unpublished. Perhaps Oscar Wilde was right; women haven’t the temperament to write novels and remain sane.
This one’s dedicated to you Scott, wherever you might be.
Mess or management?