‘What’s your name?’
I told her.
‘What do you do?’
‘I’m finishing my first novel,’
She looked interested, told me she used to write short stories, articles, longer pieces and then she had stopped.
We were chatting over tea and chocolatey pastries at the weekly Women’s Guild coffee morning. I hadn’t been for months, life had intervened. The atmosphere was lively, I was talking to another writer.
‘It all became too personal,‘ she said. ‘I didn’t want to share that much of myself in my writing so I stopped.’
I was intrigued to hear the sentiment from someone else. Over Christmas I had been thinking the same thing, had even asked a friend, ‘When you read a novel do you ever wonder where the author found her material?‘ My friend had looked genuinely surprised. ‘No I just get into the story.’
When I read, I often think of the person who wrote the book. What prompted her to choose the setting, dream up particular characters, then balance their life on the novel’s premise. However disguised, the narrative must come from somewhere.
It may emerge like a patchwork or a word-for-word transcription of real events. It may take place miles from the writer’s place of residence, be told as comedy when what originally occurred was not funny at all but if it is to have any integrity its essence will reflect what the writer knows in herself to be true.
It is the rawness of this, I think, which informed my coffee companion’s unwillingness to pick up the pen again. It can sometimes feel too exposing, to real to set thoughts down.
But when I hear that a writer has stopped writing, I think of the birds who sing so loudly close to my apartment. I imagine them setting down their song, falling silent and I feel, then, that the world has lost some of its colour. Even when it’s only one bird retiring from the fray.
Writers, what motivates you to write? What keeps you writing? Readers, to what extent do you connect a piece of fiction with the author who wrote it? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below…