trysting with stories

I've written before about how, for readers, the beginning of a story is the beginning of a relationship. This is also true of course for writers. The most important thing for me when I'm writing is how I engage in my relationship with the story.

Many authors treat writing like a business transaction : it's all about work. Of course, many authors feel that their writing comes from within their own consciousness, so they don't consider relationships at all; instead, they focus on self-care, self-discipline. But I've always believed story is a wild and living thing, and my task is not to create but to record it.

I like having a romantic relationship with stories. Not in the modern sense of that word, but the older one : mystery, excitement. A relationship of secret smiles, whispered dreams, roads bending away into gold-lit possibility, the allurement of a half-open door or half-naked eye, a breeze bringing in wrack and wishing from the sea. I like to walk through the supermarket with story drifting around me, dark and wicked, making me forget to buy bread. (But only if it's no real hassle to go without that bread.) I'd rather snatch half an hour of intimacy with a story than spend all morning typing and plotting and drinking cups of tea. (Which is just as well, considering I am a homeschooling mother with maths to prepare, laundry to wash, floors to sweep.)

I'd rather wonder, and yearn towards the next paragraph, and feel my heart beat fast for the fate of my heroine, than build a careful plot structure in advance.

I've always been a little perplexed by the fact that I grew more creative, more prolific, when I became a mother. Women writers often say they have no time for storymaking when their children are small - or at least they have to struggle to find balance somehow. It's never been like that for me. I write better when I am busy. Perhaps that's because I give up on spending long hours working seriously on a project, instead making time for it whenever I can - touching words gently to paper in the candlelit quiet of my bedroom, or having a murmured conversation while lessons are being done at the other end of the table, or dreaming slow and luxuriously while walking home with bags of groceries. In this way, the romance flourishes. The magic, the longing, the spellbound feeling.

I know there are issues. Tiredness. Deadlines. I could address those. But I have to go fold laundry and organise a test and watch quietly in my mind as a man standing dark-eyed and sad in a corner makes the decision to finally step out of his silence. I'm not trying to make light of the issues. I'm just busy right now, and I had some time this morning to go to the heart, and share a little of it, and that really is my whole point.

(Inspired by this post at Myth and Moor.)


  1. I just love this. This is why your writing always feels so magical. :)

  2. I was just writing a post (that hasn't published yet) and it's about stories. I mentioned you (hope you don't mind) and came here to grab a your link, and saw this wonderful post your wrote about stories. I laughed. I love this. You even answered a question I asked on my blog, about how you consider what to write about. : )

  3. I really look forward to reading that, Dawn.

    Thank you both :-)

  4. I think this is how I managed to have a "room of my own" even when I was raising the children. I always had a story in my mind, some were meant to be written and some to be lived.

  5. Lovely thoughts indeed, thanks for sharing that!

  6. I feel I became more creative after I became a mother too. Just the act of answering my daughter's question, almost every night for 14 years, 'What should I think about before I fall a sleep?' brings about a little creativity. I enjoyed reading your post today,

  7. This is so beautiful. You have such a gift, Sarah. <3