A story is a journey; it follows a particular trail through a particular landscape. The trail is never straight, or easy. Often there are tree roots poised to trip unwary feet; overgrown bushes that need to be pushed through, catching at clothing and scratching at arms, so that you must pause to lick the blood off your skin. There are places where night quickly descends, and it helps to light a match to see the way (hint: always carry matches). Even when I know the final destination of a story—how it will end—I am never quite sure of the route I will need to take to get there. Sometimes there are glimpses of it, but it is not possible to see all the way ahead. There are tall trees obscuring the view, wraiths of mist, or the flank of a hill.
This is just the way stories work. They are living things, and they know how they want to be written—all the twists and turns, dark and light places, obstacles that obfuscate, and straight sections travelled with ease. And if you try to write off the trail, in another direction, whether deliberately or otherwise, the story always protests: No, that is not the way. You’ll never reach the end if you try to go in that direction.
I’ve been thinking these thoughts because I haven’t been writing stories. The last one I completed was in January, and I’m not convinced it is any good. The path of that story was a particularly obstructive one; and funnily enough, it was about a bush track that was no longer passable. Lack of use had led it to become so overgrown that only small creatures, moving underneath the tangled foliage, could use it.
Was I, unknowingly, writing about how I was feeling?
I think I do put much of myself into my creative writing—sometimes more overtly, but usually hidden beneath layers of meaning and imagery that disguise and slant the truth. In a way, writing a tale is a metaphoric way of exploring myself, the world, or the things I have been thinking of. I can role play through characters, inhabit and learn from different landscapes and situations.
Yet if a story—the writing as well as the reading of it—is a journey, how do I go on such a journey when all I want to do—all I have the energy to do right now—is stay in one place?
In writing this, I know I’ve taken a small thought-journey, even if it didn’t seem like there was a visible trail at all. I’ve made myself go somewhere, when I thought I couldn’t. So, while I may not be able to go on longer story-journeys at present—for it is best to rest within myself for a while—I do not have to be entirely static. I can let my thoughts be moved, gently; and I can follow them, slowly, at a pace my mind can handle, trusting that I will be led to a new and interesting destination.
Sometimes CFS can leave me befuddled. I just can’t think clearly. I wonder, have I said, here, what I wanted to say? Do I even know quite what I wanted to express?
Does it even matter?
I journeyed a little way, found something, and then returned to myself. A little tired, but glad to have been exploring.