A very clever and erudite man said to me recently, ‘Julie Andrews was wrong’. But sometimes, it’s ok to disagree.
It starts with a sudden light in the darkness, the opening of a door, a window, an aperture into a new world. The germ of the idea implants faster than light, faster than thought, and my mind races to keep up with the speed of unfolding ideas. Names, characters and places flash by, collecting, congregating, until they form around me into multiple pictures and connections. And then the doors appear, doors in every wall, door upon door, idea upon idea, begging me to tell the story. Tell them about me, tell them this story, wouldn’t this be good, you see how we are together . . . ? Tell this story! No, tell this one!
And almost without volition the new world and its people spill out into the landscape of my mind, and I start to know them. There is Clara, I know her history, she is a magpie person, a collector, and she is in love with . . .
David, a free spirited bare-foot new age guru, who lives in a narrow boat on a canal in Somerset, and was once married to . . .
Millie, a bohemian history lecturer who divorced David in favour of a young student she was having an affair with . . .
And so on, so on, they appear, they speak, and their lives are written in brief in the great family album of the story. This may be all there is, of this particular story, or there may be more, more time, more space, more opportunity, and, of course, more inspiration to follow the story through, to see it to the end. To be faithful to the story as one is faithful to a lover, following their ups and downs, their hot spots, their times of distance and disinterest, having faith, enduring until the end. But the relationship is closer than that of a lover, because the story is mine, it comes from me, born like a child from the great womb-room of the mind. And just like a child, once freed, it takes on its own life, shape, direction, almost its own will. The story becomes itself, and like a parent I am left to run around after it, barely keeping up, as it grows and changes with alarming speed.
This is writing. In my head, a hundred rooms, a hundred novels, and a thousand stories within stories. A writing life is not a life lived by the pen or the keyboard, it’s lived in the imagination. Reality is mutable, and endlessly reshaped, inside the mind and on the page.