So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks doing a spot of creative writing. Forming a story for a friend. See, I really do like the idea of home-made gifts for birthdays and Christmas – it’s personal, it’s cheap (or even free) and in the end it means a lot more as a gift because you’re giving yourself. But then looking at what I can actually do… well after rambling vocally or on “paper” there isn’t much left.
So I determined to craft a story for a friend, because I know she likes reading and she always said she wanted a particular type of story that she’d never seen. Fortunately for a whole week I was not working in my normal office and had to take a 50 minute train journey (well a ten minute one followed by a 20 minute one with a 15 minute wait in between, give or take) so had a good 40 minutes a day each way between Preston and Warrington where I didn’t have to concentrate on pretty much anything else. There were innumerable scraps of paper, discarded pens and some writing done on the hoof.
And here’s the thing…. getting started is one thing I’ve never been able to do. I can go years without writing a story. But once I’m in it, every minute I’m not sleeping or eating becomes consumed with the story. If I’m not sitting physically writing with pen and paper, or at the keyboard, I’m writing in my head. Actually it’s a great thing to do whilst running – it helps to distract you from the pain/heavy legs/no air in your lungs 🙂 . And any moment where there is a pen and a piece of paper nearby, I can’t help but pick it up and write the next stage of the journey of these characters. Oh and there’s something so much more therapeutic actually writing than typing; scratching out characters (the other kind) with a pen onto wood pulp. It feels somehow more personal. Really, give it a try some time.
And here you are with the idea for a story, and you sit and write. And characters come and go, with ones you thought would be key (so you gave them a name) suddenly winking out of existence, and others pushing themselves forward. And just like when you read a story, when you write you just can’t wait to get back into that world… until that moment when you can feel the ending coming just around the corner. Because you’re loving this world and these people (though some you just want to smack) and you simply don’t want to leave. You’ve had that when reading a book, right? Where you’ve read thirty seven chapters pretty much non-stop. But the last two? Well, if you don’t read them, the story won’t end will it. Those people will never leave and that world is still there.
But it has to end. And this story had to end – if I hadn’t ended it, I would never have been able to give the gift now would I? I mean I totally Burned my crumpets on this creation. (Burned my Crumpets – Trying to get this Euphemism/Metaphor out there into the world. Give it a go. Just try it. “Burned My Crumpets” – to achieve something really amazing at the expense of something else just as worthwhile. Good, eh? – Thanks Paul C).
And here is the scary part. The part where I hand it over and it becomes the story. Because while it’s just me that has birthed and loved and honed it, it may be a beautiful piece of art but it’s not a story. It can only become the story when it is shared. Oh, but scary because that’s when it leaves my control. That’s when someone else can see these friends I’ve spent so long with and have the opportunity to be annoyed with them, or impatient, or fall in love with them. And whatever emotional, mental or spiritual responses there will be, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be at least one unexpected response. I mean, she might not like it! Argh!! (Welcome to the world of the creative artist. Some people don’t like your stuff. Accept it. Suck it up. Do More.) Yes, letting your “wonderful creation” out there gives it life – but life is not so easily controlled and we writers do like to control things. Why do you think we create the stories in the first place – we get to tell people what to do! Well, mostly we do, cos there are those times when characters simply won’t do what you want. Believe me, it’s a thing. But when the story is out there in the world – it no longer belongs to you. It’s now subject to the audience, to those participating in it by reading, by listening. And by sharing, each person then becomes part of its creation. And thereby community is formed.
What’s so scary about storytelling? Letting the story go…. But you know what? It always comes back.