|Smiling, it appears, is not an option.|
Well, this is me, sitting in the attic and doing my best to look authorial and as non unphotogenic as possible.
I'm woking with a client at the moment to bring her short story collection to life and what struck me most of all was the authenticity of the emotions on the page. I mean, I know we talk about being authentic and moving the reader and all that groovy stuff. But I, as the reader, felt something when I read her words. I laughed out loud several times and I choked a little when I read about death and loss. (Which, if you know me, despite my track record in that department, is not my usual response.)
So, what gives?
Well, I think what gave was the pretence, which can happen when you create fiction a lot of the time, that this whole business of creating characters and words and worlds is all in the mind.
It isn't - that's bullshit. If there's no emotion, the characters don't live. They simply exist. And we've all known, at some time or other, how soulless that can be. And while we're ensouling our characters, sometimes we need to ensoul ourselves. To really inhabit the landscapes of our creation and to put purselves in touch with the source of it all. Because, often, that source is our own experience.
I had a dream last night, which has inspired me to write this post.
In the dream, I'm a small child, taking an exam. To my right is a boy I knew from school and he's continually looking over at my efforts to see what I'll write. He's smug because, I think, he's already finished the paper. Or perhaps he isn't taking the exam. Anyway, I ask him politely to mind his own business, but he persists.
Finally, after maybe the fourth time, I say out loud (in the dream): "That's it. Enough. I'm not doing this." And I close the exercise book, push back my chair and stand up. Smug kid is a little taken aback, but he sits and watches me. Another boy to my left mutters that it's the wrong thing to do. However, I have the bit between my teeth now (in a way I never actually did as a child), and I make my way to the front of the hall where an English teacher towers over me and asks what I'm doing. I explain that I've quit the exam and he tells me it will cost £100 to do it again, and immediately starts planning how he could get funding for me. (He was a great teacher in the real world too.)
I push open a door and find I'm in a deserted London, close to Bank. As I looked down the gentle slope of the road, all I can see is grey stone buildings. And there's this tremendous sense of setting off in a new direction without security or community, and I can hear the echo of that other boy who was to the left of me, telling me not to do it. So I smile a little and start walking.
I doubt this is a dream that Messrs. Jung or Freud need trouble themselves with. As a writer, what struck me was how intense the emotions were. That sense of blood pumping through my veins and a maelstrom of conflicting ideas and fears, all subsumed by my will.
In the end, that's all it was. No direction, no plan, guarantee, no strategy and no angle. Just the will to move forward. You know, I think there's something in that.