Where Do Unicorns Go?
The Mythology of the Writer
"This they tell, and whether it happened so or not I do not know, but if you think about it, you can see that it is true." — Black Elk
I attended a seminar with David Almond today (author of Skellig and the soon-to-be-released My Name is Mina). He had some interesting things to say to us, and the above quote is a result of something he said.
The discussion was only partly about what I want to write about today. He mentioned the personal mythologies writers have about themselves and their work, and I had a good think about what mine were. I also thought about how important those mythologies are to our work and future stories that we haven't arrived at yet. The intrinsic sense that we have of ourselves and what we do has such a colossal impact on our writing that it might just possibly be too big and too quiet for us to see it.
I examined my mythology. Here's what I arrived at.
I believe that my writing ability was a gift from God, through my grandfather. As Black Elk so wisely said, this doesn't have to be physically, inarguably true. I believe in its truth. I believe in its truth because I feel it. My grandfather was not in my life for a long period of time. Almost twenty years have passed since he died. I have next to no recollection of him. I remember his foot. I remember the game he used to play with me by poking it out of his bed sheets and quickly pulling it back in again.
My mind doesn't remember him. My heart, and I believe, my soul, does. I can't explain why losing him has created a wonderful wound in me, when I can't remember him. I can't explain why, when I think on him, I find myself overwhelmed to the point of tears.
All I know, is that when I sit down and put my hands to work, I can feel him in my bones. I know that I feel swollen with an inexplicable passion. A passion for words, and the freedom of blank pages, and the beauty of small, black marks. I know that, had I been able to write in those blank years before my brain developed, I would have felt that same searing desire to get my colourful innards out into those black marks. I did not make my desire to write. It is in me as it has always been in me.
Whether it's the part of him that runs in my veins, whether that love in my blood is a fuel or not, whatever the real, inarguable, physical truth is, he touched all of me in a way I can't properly explain.
This is my mythology. I am a product of my grandfather's ineffable touch. In equal parts, a product of my father's unwavering faith and goodness, and my mother's untouchable strength and compassion. My parents have dosed me with their gifts to make who I am, and how I have used those gifts, for good or ill, has been my doing.
I believe my grandfather's touch conspired to make me what I am.
I believe that it is a gift because often, I don't feel myself when I'm writing. I don't feel like I'm writing at all. Another quote of the evening was, "You sometimes go to places where the stories are already happening". This feels entirely true of my writing. I am often not a creator. I'm a spectator. I am privy to places that no one else can see, unless I show them. I don't know my hands are moving when I'm truly writing. I am a journalist typing in a quiet corner of a world where Roman columns hold up a pink sky.
My gift is to walk amongst stories, not create them. Perhaps this is scientific. Perhaps my subconscious does it for me, and my conscious is simply the tool it uses to relay its creations.
But that is not my mythology, and neither will I ever use it in my stories.
It might not be fact. It might be the artist in me trying to be too exostential. It might all be another story I've conjured around a piece of my past.
But it is, nonetheless, true; and it does, nonetheless, shape me and my work. It's always going to shape me and my work.
What's your mythology?
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