To my shame, I’m not someone who knew they were going to be a writer from the moment they first clutched a pencil and crafted a few words. Writing crept up on me, insidious in the beginning, then swiftly devoured me whole. Writing now dominates every corner of my life, shaping my day. Despite this – I am the willing victim. To think of life now without writing is to ask me if I’d rather not breathe.
The physical process of writing has always been part of my life, I’d just not noticed. With family spread around the country, before the internet and mobile phones, we’d keep in touch with letters. Before the advent of blogging and social networking, sharing news and photos took the form of a monthly newsletter I instigated. In the 5 years I lived in the UK, I diligently sent around 50 letters every fortnight on my adventures on motorcycling, hiking and backpacking around Europe. Many of my audience urged me to put it together in book form, as (in their words) I made the history I experienced come alive with my stories and insights into the places I visited and the enthusiasm I had whilst there. At the time, gathering information and producing a book would have been in the same league as mounting an expedition to the moon. It seems incredible to me as I type this for the site, that the reality of self-publishing and reaching wider audiences is within the reach of most writers now, rather than the elite few, only a few years away from that feedback I’d gained about my travel logs. How quickly things change.
After thinking about the reasons I write fiction primarily, rather than non-fiction, I’d need to thank my theatre background for my love of living in the skin of another character. Back in grade school, a sympathetic English teacher encouraged me to audition for the school play. I did and I gained the lead role–and my love of the theatre and acting was born. I maintain my passion for character, the detail and intricacies which set a living person apart from a generalised or stock standard cliche was birthed from my continued studies within the theatre. For me, in writing or in acting, the character carries the action, the lifeblood of any plot. The exploration of a character provides an escape from the grey reality I often find myself in and allows me to research and delve into dark, twisty “what if’s”. Characters allow the writer to question societal norms and test an audience’s reaction.
It’s true that I hear and see my characters as real beings. However, it’s in the same vein that when I sketch or paint I wait for the image to present itself on the page, and all I need to do is trace around it. Unfortunately, as with many other creative artists’ muses, the voices and motivation can’t be controlled or bullied to come out and play. If its not ‘flowing’, there is little I can do to force it to behave.
There have been numerous writers and musicians who claim that they are simply ‘translators who take the notes’. I swing between believing that and what novelist, E.L. Doctorow was once reputed to have said:
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
It is, therefore, my little socially acceptable excuse for being a little quirky.
Writing shapes my day. Every conversation I have or overhear, every news story, photograph or image I take in provides fodder for the next article or story. In honouring my roots, it allows me the escapism to explore lost civilisations, to question humanity and challenge societal ideals.
I know that I am not alone in clutching my scribble books or capturing snippets of conversations on my iphone. There are other writers out there doing the same thing… right?