This morning I sat down at my computer and decided to visit my cousin Ross’ travel blog. He loaded up his VW bug in Louisville Kentucky this past November, and is proceeding to drive around the entire world and photograph his adventure. He’s a photographer and a wonderful artist. He’s also a man who cannot sit still, constantly driven to experience all there is to experience in the world. He’s already travelled quite extensively around the planet and is always clamoring for more. Unfortunately, like so many of us, he’s forced to return home and work in the more mundane world in order to finance his art. When I have a moment, I’ll add a link to his web page and you can see the wonderful pieces he’s created with your own eyes.
As I read of his recent time in Mexico I started to think about the differences between his type of journeys and my own. Ross travels in the physical world, meeting the real characters that populate our planet and capturing a part of their souls in his pictures. My journeys happen in my mind where the route I intend to travel is not always so clear, even when I’ve plotted out the story. Yet Ross’ route is not much more clear. Yeah, he has a map with plans to tread certain roads, but plans change, are forced to change by unexpected circumstances or opportunities. Already he is adjusting his expectations.
My characters are my own creations and I decide their conflicts and their heartbreaks and their joys. I craft the world to my own specifications, particularly since I mostly write fantasy. Magic lives and breathes, peoples go to war at my command, the world teeters on the brink of destruction. And in the end, if I’m lucky, I’ve created a full vision that makes readers care about the world I’ve painted and its inhabitants. But when Ross meets a new person and is lucky enough to hear some of their story, he too is deciding a bit of who that person is, imagining the context of their lives and projecting his own view of the world onto his understanding of the other individual.
So really, if you think about it, what I do and what Ross does are not so dissimilar. Even in fiction, and I’d argue even in fantasy or sci-fi fiction, a writer is reflecting their truths of the actual world around them. We all create our own realities every day of our lives. That’s why when you have ten different people witnessing the same event, like a traffic accident, there are ten different versions of what’s happened. And even when a writer is not creating characters based specifically on their own lives, it’s virtually impossible not to put something of one’s own soul into the story. Reflected out are the basic truths we’ve embraced or the important questions we struggle with. It’s why the same themes sometimes crop up again and again in an author’s novels.
As writers we have absorbed the many stories we’ve already read, the everyday people we’ve met, the struggles we’ve faced, the wishes we’ve made, the dreams we hold dear, the happiness and sorrow and fear and anger and peace (if we’re lucky) we carry around inside of us. And so, in putting our words down on paper (or computer screen) we are commenting on the real world. Now, this does not mean those of us who write about vampires and werewolves and faeries and other types of fantastical beings are expressing their psychosis and describing auditory or visual hallucinations. But we all have times we wish we had supernatural strength or supernatural allure or the power over life and death. There is darkness in each of our lives and most of us wish we could do battle and truly and finally conqueor that darkness. Our stories give us a chance to express those desires.
Most importantly, I think tapping into this creative process is about the journey to find hope. And that’s what I believe my cousin is doing. It’s what I know I’m doing each time I start a story. Searching for hope. Today, my wish for everyone is that they continue their search and, in the end, capture that sometimes allusive, but very much necessary beast. Hope keeps the blood beating in our veins and our feet moving down the road.
Give me an H, give me an O, give me a P, give me an E. What does that spell? Drop me a line and let me know what brings hope to your lives.