Monday, 19 March 2012

Why I Write (at least at the moment)

'I'll be a story in your head, but that's OK. We're all stories in the end.'
- The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who S31E13

Here be minor spoilers for Doctor Who. Read at your peril.

A few days ago, in the midst of ignoring my manuscript and the short stories I'm meant to be working on, I got around to watching Season 5 of the Doctor Who Reboot. In the midst of the season finale the above line stuck out like a splinter. I had chills. Sure, in many ways the line is a glaringly obvious one bordering on pop philosophy, but sometimes something is worded so simply that it shines with charm.

I'm not the only one who honed in on this line - many clearly have judging by the amount of fan videos that popped up when I googled it. But it struck a chord with me, and made me realise something about my writing for this past year.

Since the sudden death of my father in May of last year, my writing has taken on a preoccupation with death, and dying, and any facet of the last days of our lives. Everywhere I look there is a body, or bodies, from the clandestine burial in the snowy woods of 'The Keeper of Tales', to the world of the dead in my current novelette 'The Shadow of Death'. Even 'A Letter Found Amongst the Dead', which you can read in Eschatology Journal on the left hand side of this page, needs no explanation. There are many more unfinished pieces besides, little flash fiction stories and snippets of dialogue which I have collected but never completed.

The shadow of Death looms over us every day, and for a long time I wasn't dealing with my Dad's death. So it subconsciously came out in my writing; all those mixed up feelings, those nightmares I was having, became words on the page. And if that is the case then what do we become, in the end, to the ones we leave behind?

Faced with not only death but being erased from existence, the Eleventh Doctor tells Amy Pond that he will be a story in her head, the imaginary friend she had as a child. Now that my dad is gone, all I'm left with is stories; the things he did in his amazing life, the things he saw around the world when he was a merchant sailor. But even that isn't what I've focused on; I've focused on his body, on how he looked after death. I've focused on the burial, standing by his graveside as the funeral director hands me a flower to drop on top of the coffin. My dad has become a story in my head, and I've focused on this age old question, perhaps the greatest of them all - What happens after we die?

There's so much more I could write here - many of my stories come from dreams, and if that is so then some amount of analysis of the subconscious mind is in order, but I'll save that for another time. For now, what I'll say is this: I have, for months, been working out my dad's death through my writing, entirely subconsciously, and I will continue to do so. I'm going to get back to working on 'The Shadow of Death', which I think focuses mainly on my discontent with the conventional afterlife with some funereal imagery thrown in for good measure. Now that I'm more conscious of my preoccupation with death, perhaps I can improve on what I was writing before.

Until next time, readers.



  1. Such a lovely post.

    I have not faced death on the level that you have, but I do know that my writing reflects whatever I'm going through - it has always been my safety valve, my way of untangling whatever has me choked inside. I know it sounds cliché, but the printed word can be a healing balm when nothing else can.

    So glad to see, also, that you posted again...I was about to send you pestering messages on Twitter about that. Heh. :-)

    1. Thanks Angela. Really means a lot that you liked it.

      I suppose we're quite lucky in that way - that we are able to cope through our writing when non-creative types have to find other ways. It's second nature to us - to fiction writers, poets, artists, everyone. I don't mean for that to sound self-important, so I hope it doesn't. I simply don't know where I would be if I wasn't able to channel my hurt through my writing.

      'Safety valve' is exactly the right term here. I actually used that very term when talking to someone about it only a few hours ago.

      Haha, thank you for the eventual pestering Twitter messages =) sometimes they can help. I think once a week, for now, is a good timeline. Thank you for reading!