Tuesday, 22 November 2016
On my desk, a few centimetres from my keyboard, sits a white ceramic drinking mug. I have never used it for coffee or tea. It is the place I keep my pens, pencils, scissors and ruler and I pick into and out of it almost every day. I have done this for over two decades. Yet how rarely do I actually LOOK at the mug itself. I now do so.
It was bought for me over two decades ago by a friend when I was suffering a great deal of hurt from a professional disappointment. It was a gift worthy of a friend who understood what I was going through. On one side is the picture of a mouse dragging a heavy, live, upside down elephant, a design by Boynton. It depicts just how hard life can be, both personally and professionally. It reveals what a writer trying to find a publisher sometimes feels like. A writer dragging their book behind them, seeking out a publisher, can be heavy going and a weary, sometimes never ending climb to the top. Yet, when the mug is turned around the words, "GO FOR IT!" are writ large and that is the other side of what life can be like. No matter what we have to carry on. That is being human. Joy and pain. Pessimism and optimism. Dead weights and lightweight laughter.
Looking properly at the mug I can sense what stories could be bound up in that one small item. There are the memories of me and the people who were with me at that time. Then the people who made and sold the article. How many hours did the designer spend on getting it just right? And there were people who heaved the clay, ones who sold it, and how many others stared at it in the shop before it was whisked away by my friend. So many true stories to be told plus those where the imagination can forge further stories. A number of worlds,both real and imagined could be bound up in that one silent, ageing, simple drinking mug,
So when people ask what do writers find to write about it may be a cliche to say, 'Look around you', as I often do but it is exactly right. Look, listen and imagine, is the crux of all story telling surely. It is the imagination that can take us into the lives of others and it is that experience that can help us understand and accept others as being as human as we are. Stepping into another's shoes is really the important part, for it opens eyes and hearts. Is this why fascists and fundamentalists feel the need to burn books?