I’ll ask a question. Do most people, who do not go through a period of trauma in their childhood, think that their life is destined to be great? Not necessarily even that, just good; maybe not famous, not rich, not adventurous and so on but do they have it in their minds when leaving school or college or university when they look in the mirror, yep, things will be okay, my life will turn out all right, I’m going to go through my life and get the things I want and have a generally all round okay existence?
If so, at what point do people realize that they are the same as everyone else and that the incredible odds that meant they were born have maintained their continual lucky roll of the dice to have kept you from severe hardship along the way…or at what point do we find ourselves going through what we thought we never would, illness, depression, divorce, repossession, disease, death and everything else that we always think will happen to other people.
There are those that are so fantastically deserving of a good life, who work hard and who maintain throughout a combative society a sense of goodness and positive humanity and do in fact get everything they want and live a fulfilling, content and happy life. And that’s great. There are those who are so fantastically deserving but get nothing and go nowhere. Then there are those who simply plod along. There are those who get lucky. There are those that suffer misfortune. There are those that are terribly disadvantaged, subjugated, dehumanized and controlled. There are the out and out evil. And a billion other variants in between.
So what is it that makes me want to write about things that happen to other people, good and bad? They say that everyone writes from their own experience and of course that is very true but to be able to create a range of characters and stories you can’t just use your experience, you have to use your imagination too and that is where you have to draw on things that happen to other people. Well you don’t have to, many amazingly talented people tend to create one type of thing over and over in many different guises and there is nothing wrong with that, you don’t have to go into other spheres if you don’t want to. But if you do?
For me, perhaps it is was the realization I’m not going to live forever that made me comprehend how much I wanted to explore other lives. Sounds over the top doesn’t it, but when you are a kid, mortality just doesn’t come into it (as I said above, in most cases) and I think I always assumed I would have all the time in the world to do all the things I wanted to do. I wanted to write then, but not with the same urgency and need as now. As you get older you understand that second chances become fewer, you have more to focus on and take responsibility for. I’m not saying you still don’t have all the opportunities, you do, and in fact when you are older you maybe have more money to realize those opportunities, however, you are also more aware that time passes with or without your consent. The cliché of school summer holidays lasting forever becomes a distant joke. I think that in some ways I am just as determined and optimistic about life as I was as a kid, but in many other ways, I am far more pessimistic and beaten down. The terrible brutality of life around the globe cannot but make you that way. So, to write becomes an escape, a form of therapy, because yes, things do happen to other people, so if I don’t do them in real life, I can do them in fiction. I can live a million lives, I can experience all the things that I both wanted to do and feared to have happen to me. I can live a in a hundred different countries, I can become a woman, I can become a different nationality, I can become a different age…I can become anything and I can experience anything. It is quite an amazing thought.
In most cases that is a gift. I want to be able to walk away from trauma. I want to be able to experience grief, pain, upset and hurt but then turn the page and leave it behind me. That is what writing and reading offers you. I can become anything and anyone for a short while. I am sure there are not many stories that have a totally benign beginning, middle and end where nothing much happens and everyone gets along nicely. Conflict, action and the unexpected are what we search for and aren’t we glad that it happens to other people?
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