this alone

Katherine Langrish has said it again. She writes one of those wonderful blogs that I wish I could write, saying things I’ve tried to say (and not said well) or just started to reach toward (but hadn’t arrived at yet).

Today is yet another example of this uncanny literary prowess. In ‘Faerie-led,’ Katherine raises the inevitable question of why anyone would choose to write fantasy.

What makes a writer choose one subject over another, one genre over another?  What draws one writer to contemporary fiction, another to historical fiction, fantasy, or thrillers?  While I know and admire a number of authors who can handle a variety of forms (Gillian Philip and Nicola Morgan, for example, who seem equally and brilliantly at home with both gritty thrillers and historical or fantasy novels) – there are others like myself who stick to a single last.  From the age of about ten, writing fantasy has been my first and only love.

This doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t had qualms.  I’ve asked myself, in the past, what relevance fantasy has or can have to the problems of life.  Can it really be serious?  Shouldn’t I – shouldn’t I? – be writing something more meaningful?

But I have come to the conclusion that what is done with a whole heart, with love, and with as much artistic truth as I can personally muster, must be good enough.  More than that is out of my control.  I don’t have a choice.  There is in writing, as in all art, […] something that feels remarkably like outside inspiration: a fierce compulsion that grasps you by the hair and demands and absolutely requires: this is what you will write about: this and this alone. If you don’t obey it you feel restless, haunted. You cannot ignore it.  You cannot decide to write about something else.  (Or if you try, what you turn out will be stale, flat and unprofitable.)

Katherine’s post is worth reading in full here, not least because it ends with an eerie reimagining of ‘Thomas the Rhymer.’

Some emotions are just to strong and immediate for a comment box, and my enthusiasm for this post is one of them. Yet again, Katherine has said exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it. I can only hope it’s the same for you.

So, read and report. Have you asked those questions yourself? How have you found ways of answering them, or have you?

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One thought on “this alone

  1. I could never improve on what Ms. Langrish has articulated above about why we write what we write. When we don’t get in our own ways and just “let it shine,” then the words flow that need to flow. For me, it’s philosophy, and most recently philosophy & literature–I have to go where the love and meaning to be expressed take me.

    This reminds me of some of Madeleine L’Engle’s thoughts about writing:

    “A book comes and says, ‘Write me.”

    “When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.”

    “Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith. Faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

    “The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary who, when the angel told her that she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command….I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.”

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