Monday, November 04, 2013

The Story Road by Isobelle Carmody

People often ask writers about writers’ block. I always answer that I do not experience writers’ block. I think regarding writing difficulties as a block is a good way to brick your creativity up forever.

Naming is a powerful thing.

Naming a thing shapes it. Maybe that is why we care so much about the names we give to our children and our pets, and of course, to our characters. Names are not just labels.

I don’t get writers’ block, but sometimes writing is hard. There are lots of reasons for this.

Sometimes I feel tired, even when I just got up. Sometimes I can’t concentrate. Sometimes something I am worried about keeps getting in the way. Sometimes the sun is shining. Sometimes my daughter needs help with her homework. Sometimes there is a bill and I need to figure how to pay it. Sometimes I have to go and give a speech. Sometimes someone calls me and asks for help. Sometimes a journalist rings and says ‘Just a few questions’. Sometimes the sink gets blocked. Sometimes I don’t have eggs. Sometimes I have to go to the Doctor. Sometimes my partner wants me to read an article to check the spelling. Sometimes the publisher wants a quote. Sometimes I have to pay a bill. Sometimes my Mother wants to talk. Sometimes my friend is sad and wants company. Sometimes the cat falls asleep on my arm.

In short, sometimes, life gets in the way.

If you think of writing as a journey, and I do, then it is an inward journey first, and the terrain will never be certain or easy. There will be deep valleys and jagged peaks, still icy pools and stony hillsides.

The thing to remember is that the story road is not entirely tame. When I set off on it, my story is the vehicle I ride in. I know the vehicle because I made it myself, for this journey. And I have a destination in mind before I begin. That is important.

But I don’t know the route and sometimes, it will take me somewhere I did not expect to go. Because writing is not merely putting down the words that describe a journey I have made, but words describing a journey I am in the process of making for the first time.

It is best not to travel according to someone else’s schedule. It is best not to be in too much of a hurry. There will be times, on the journey, when you need to stop, either to sleep or eat or rest or to meet a fellow traveler and compare notes. Sometimes you will need to explore a side path. This is not being diverted or blocked. This is giving yourself to the adventure.

When you write, you have to live in the moment. You have to climb the heights that rise up before you. You have to ease yourself down an unstable incline. You have to leap over an abyss.

In the end, writing is an adventure, which means it is uncertain where it will take you and how, or what you will learn along the way, if you keep your ears and eyes open. And if sometimes you stop, and have faith that there is a reason you have stopped, which will reveal itself in time. Sometimes you need to think some more, sometimes you are missing a vital ingredient, sometimes the story needs to be inside you a bit longer.

But sooner or later, if you keep the faith, the road will whisper its siren call, and you will continue…

All photographs taken by Jan Stolba in Iceland, July 2013 and reproduced here with permission of the copyright owner.  
Copyright, Jan Stolba, 2013.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

Isobelle Carmody has written many novels and short stories for children and adults and has a host of award winning novels to her credit. 

She began the first of her highly acclaimed Obernewtyn Chronicles while she was still at high school and worked on it while completing a Bachelor of Arts and then a journalism cadetship.  Obernewtyn was accepted by the first publisher she sent it to and went on to be shortlisted in the "Older Readers" section of the CBC Book of the Year Award. 

The Cloud Road, the second book in The Kingdom of the Lost series, has recently been published and Isobelle is currently working on The Red Queen, the final book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles which will be published in 2014.  She is also writing the screenplay of her novel, Greylands, for a film of the book.

Isobelle's favourite books:

As a kid:

The Narnia Chronicles by C S Lewis
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
The Land of Far Beyond by Enid Blyton

As an adult:

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Moomintroll books( especially Moomintroll Midwinter and A Comet in Moominland) by Tove Jansson
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban
Every single thing Ursula Le Guin has written
The Flight of the Cassowary by John LeVert

Adult books:

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
The Mountains of my Life by Walter Bonatti
The Weight of the World and Afternoon of a Writer by Peter Handke
Everything Ursula Le Guin has written
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this lyrical post Isobelle and for taking us on another literary journey through your writing.

    Readers commonly think about reading as a journey. I hadn't really thought about the author's creative process being a travel adventure as well - though it clearly is. To know the vehicle and the destination but not the route...a lovely metaphor for a writing project.

    I suppose that, to take the idea further, we readers are the package tourists on the scale of travellers! The exploration - the difficulty, the dead ends and discomfort of the story road - is complete and we're only exposed to these elements if the author's decided that it's a necessary part of getting to the destination.

    Thanks also to Jan for the use of his wonderfully atmospheric photographs of Iceland which accompany this photo essay.

    Readers who would like to read more about Isobelle's travels in Iceland - a literal as well as a literary journey, accompanied by more of Jan's photos, should have a look at Isobelle's blog. The link is given above.