Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When I Started This Writing Gig

What makes a normal kid want to write? I grew up reading fairy tales and telling my own stories. I had no idea that what I found a natural and necessary part of my life was a fundamental part of human experience. From earliest times, humans have told their stories with drawings on cave walls, songs of heroism, tales of struggle and adversity, sonnets of love.

As a child, I had stories roving around in my thoughts from my earliest recollection. My experiences always form some part of my novels, not necessarily in their exact context. Every writer makes use of material from their lives.

One of my lecturers once claimed that new writers too often write about the one thing they know the least about: themselves. However, that is the primary motivation for story-telling, to bring into focus and clarity our individual perceptions of our world.

Many of us keep diaries, journals, personal web logs: what else is an Internet based profile page but a public accounting of our lives and all too often our interactions with others who may not want their personal experience exposed.

Some of these exposés have attained the status of literary efforts, attracting readers and followers beyond their initial purpose, turned into cults, transformed into another communication medium such as film and print.

With the advent of the digital age, there seems to be no barrier to what and when or how a person can expose their innermost thoughts. The cacophony of experience thus laid before us will be of vast importance to historians of the future.

But I suspect most of what we currently call ‘being connected’ will be seen in an entirely different light in future generations, just as we see the very popular entertainment, tableaux, of the Regency and Edwardian periods as archaic and quaint.

Without a doubt, we will still be telling our stories but the form these take will be beyond our present imaginative capabilities.

All the same, we cannot tell our stories without a past upon which to base them and they will have no meaning without the context of our era and our experience of it. We invariably look to the past to inform our present and future. Our natural curiosity compels us to look for meaning and motivation in what we ourselves have seen and felt as well as how that plays out in the scheme of all mankind.

One of my most important experiences was to collect the oral and written histories of women during World War II. We know a good deal about what men experience in war, but reading and hearing about women’s lives at this traumatic time in our not-so-distant past helped me to realize a fundamental fact: we are not so different in our wants and needs from any person who has ever lived upon the earth.

What Joseph Campbell found true about the ancient hero odyssey is true in every story written by modern writers. As Aristotle theorized, every story must have the critical element of truth: not as fact but as interpreted by the listener/reader. Every story is a journey of change: from unknown to known; from apart to bonded; from static to dynamic and all the various ways in which the human joins humanity.

I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, so I keep writing!


  1. Very deep, Leigh. I haven't thought about why I write past all the voices in my head that need to get out. LOL

  2. I think the compulsion to tell stories is universal. Not everyone writes them down, but surely everyone carries them in their head and uses them to make sense of a complicated world.

  3. Good post, Leigh! I think we all have a desire to tell stories, but I'm not sure why some of us turn them into novels that require a huge commitment of time and energy.

  4. An addiction? A compulsion? A deep-seeded need? I don't know. Al I know is, like all of you, I've made the commitment regardless of any consideration other than the reward of completing a story, to the end. And thank you for commenting!