Authors: Tellers Of Tales, Weavers Of Dreams? Tap Into Your Childhood To Reveal And Nourish Hidden Emotional Creativity

Posted at 01:00am on 23rd October 2009

Why do writers exist? What is it about the human race that makes us want to be authors and readers? Tellers of tales, serialisers of stories, weavers of dreams: what compels us? Scriptwriters, dramatists, actors, theatre-goers, radio broadcasters and listeners? Why? What inner compulsion urges us on – those of us who share our inner selves – to make ourselves vulnerable? And what feeds that well of emotional creativity? What makes for great writing?


This is a serious question. As authors and novelists, we’re told that we have to identify the genre for which we’re writing; that publishers and agents need this information in order to know whether a book proposal has any mileage; whether it will be marketable. But is this all there is to it? I think not! This is deeper than genre.

I’ve touched on this in a personal way, in my article What Drives You? but today I want to dig deeper. Because this is more compelling than mere drive. This is about those core impulses that stir up creative juices and cause them to spring forth, to pour out a concoction of words and ideas onto paper in an attempt to produce a feast for our readers.


I believe that the passion that fuels creative writing may be broken down into seven components, but if you have anything to add, please do so. Some, or all, may be necessary to each one of us at different times, regardless of what we are engaged in composing.

  • Escapism
  • Entertainment
  • Enlightenment
  • Encouragement
  • Education
  • Information
  • Inspiration

Let’s take a look, now, at the first.


Escapism, more than entertainment, in my view, is about fantasy. Not the fantasy of sci-fi (though that may be included) but the daydream of finer feelings which lift both writer and reader out of the ordinary, kitchen-sink, nine-to-five lives in which most of us are shrouded to some extent or other. Romantic novels and Westerns come into this category, to my mind.

This is the little girl in me who, decades ago, put on mummy’s high heels, brightest lipstick and a falsetto voice. For mummy, to many little girls, was an adored vision of loveliness. Someone daddy loved. Someone to aspire to. For little boys it may be about sporting braces, nicking your chin on dad’s razor, but striking a jaunty pose, nevertheless and galloping off into the sunset.

Escapism, or fantasy, feeds the child that lurks in us all. For some it hovers close to the surface of consciousness; for others it’s a long forgotten pleasure. For a few it may, sadly, be escapism from a miserable, abusive childhood.


So how, as authors, may we recapture the magic of those stolen moments? Almost certainly it will include sensory visions. If you are someone for whom your inner self is a distant, far flung country, you may need to contrive the means of travelling there.

I suggest that you first ascertain your best time of day, and the place in which you feel most relaxed. For me that is either the early hours of the morning when I’m lying in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, or the windswept isolation of moorland. For you it may be a warm, candlelit bath before bedtime; a quiet place at the bottom of the garden when the kids have gone to school; or a favourite greasy spoon diner where you can lose yourself among the crowds.


Wherever it is, before your writing day begins, take yourself physically, or mentally, to that safe haven, close your eyes and allow your mind to drift, effortlessly, back to childhood. You may need some stimulus: perhaps the feel or smell of a favourite childhood book; the touch of soft fabric that resembles the comfort blanket of babyhood; the taste of warm milk in your mouth; the sound of dripping rain, or music.

Steep yourself in the sensuality of your past experience. Make no effort to think in terms of words or phrases; abandon all thought of the structure of writing. You are here to capture the cherished secrets of your heart - not by wrestling with memories, but by osmosis; by the soaking of yourself in the emotions of the past, so that they may seep into your pores, run through your veins, and be poured out, through your fingertips, onto the written page.

The sense of security as you lay on your mother’s lap, locked in her embrace may be transmuted into the adult craving for love that will transform your writing of romance. The remembered feel of silky fabrics from the dressing-up box and mummy’s make-up caressing your skin, may add to the allure of stolen moments for your heroine. And in the thrill of being lifted high above your father’s head you may find an inspired revelation of your hero’s power and strength.

This passion, this childish ardour and delight in life itself will, I promise you, inform your creativity like nothing else. Not in purple prose or melodrama! But in great writing which lifts your reader from mere mortality into regions of fantasy and escapism beyond the shallowness, illusion and treachery of romance, and into the joy and rapture of spiritual realms. And this, surely, is what makes the human race such tellers of tales and weavers of dreams?

Next time, we’ll take a look at one of the other components of creative writing.

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