…and other metaphors for life and writing.
One of the random offshoots of having a book out is that people sometimes ask you to write things for them. The Edinburgh Evening News weekend paper runs a section called ‘memories of Edinburgh’ with short pieces by local folk. Since they printed a lovely feature on my book when it came out, I’ve been happy to provide a few of my own memories when asked. My latest will be in the paper tomorrow.
It’s a fun excuse to fashion little cameos from small incidents. It struck me recently though, how these shorts, while betraying certain character quirks at an early age, also serve as metaphors for writing. The first one was about getting thoroughly lost in pursuit of adventure and the latest described a spectacular failure to walk on water.
Now that I’m starting new writing projects, I’m drawing heavily on that childhood impulse to follow my imagination wherever it leads. Picking myself up and starting again when I end up face down in a metaphorical puddle doesn’t get any easier but what’s the alternative? When things go right, it’s often not in the way I expected but by getting lost in pursuit of one idea, I sometimes stumble on another better one I never even knew was there. The point is to keep getting lost, keep trying to walk on water.
The Myth of Sisyphus is an obvious choice for the task of embarking on another new project but here are two more of my own personal writing metaphors:
Ploughing a field with a teaspoon – for novel-writing, a task that can seem overwhelming. On a good day, the sun is warm and my teaspoon is shiny but on a bad day, the rain comes down in stair rods, my spoon is tiny and bent and the soil full of rocks… I like my writing metaphors to be adaptable to conditions.
Shaving an angry cat –wresting with an uncooperative idea that resists all attempts to get it onto the page in an orderly fashion. Requires determination, nerve and a willingness to get hurt in the process, plus an acceptance that even when the job’s done the result may be ugly.
If you’d like to share your own writing metaphors, I’d love to hear them.