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Island Life, Word Birds & Process # 14

One upon a time I wrote a story with the working title RiverBook. I began writing it before I got the deal for Ghostbird intending it to be my next book. Once it was done (by which time, Ghostbird had been accepted) I put it away and concentrated on the process of being published. But still, in between the edits, copy edits and general excitement, you have to write something, don’t you? Out of somewhere, I got the idea for SisterBook. It kept me occupied and would be my third book (assuming I even got a look in for a second.)

By the time Ghostbird was published, I realised Sisters was likely to be a better bet as a follow-up so River was virtually banished. Sisters is now finished and submitted and I’m back to square one. While I await my fate, what do I write? Got to write something etc… Out came River and with the benefit of distance I immediately realised it was wrong. It had something but it wasn’t right. Too complex – my default setting – for one thing.

One of the best aspects about writing Ghostbird was having a myth to hang my story on. A mise an abîme I could return to that kept me connected. (Sisters doesn’t have a myth – it’s a different kind of haunting.) River – to say the least – as it stood was a muddle of mythology. And therein lay my problem. Out of an over-indulgence in research I’d created a mini-monster. I wanted another legend but I wanted a simple one.

Lying in my bath about a fortnight ago, I worked it out. In the absence of a known myth, why not create my own?

Myths and legends evolve out of unconscious processes in the oral tradition. There is rarely any historical evidence for their veracity but the repeated telling of them renders them charismatic and ‘true’ and for our ancestors they became part of the collective psyche. And like religion or any spiritual path, myths have their roots in our human desire for a rationale: a cornerstone patterned with symbolism to hook our frailties and fears on. We create them out of imagination and random moments of connection to the natural world.

In other words, they’re all made up. There is no rule to gainsay this. We can all be the author of our own mythology.

Before I get too cosmic for my own good, here’s the point. I’ve made up a myth of my own and in doing so, now know exactly what RiverBook is about. Well, you have to write something, don’t you?

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