On Colette & Telling Stories
Nearly three years ago – just a few months shy of – I landed in a city of churches and bicycles in Germany’s north-west, cold, confused and with utterly inadequate footwear. I had left my home, where my footwear had been eminently suitable, in search of stories. Any stories. And I found them, in life-changing abundance, indeed, I found so many, my own story developed a plot I was seemingly unable to keep up with, a plot I am still not entirely confident I myself am actually plotting. It was wonderful. I was swimming in a sea of creative, literary fodder.
But when I went to write my stories, I began stuttering. I would open my mouth and not know what to say, where to begin, what to include. Weird, choppy, inelegant pieces came out. I flailed around, unsure of what was relevant, unsure if what I wanted to write about was worthwhile or necessary or interesting. Don’t I need a Da Vince Code of a plot? Don’t I need a cracking pace, a thrilling narrative, stomach-flipping twists and turns I can fan out over, minimum, a trilogy, earning my agent and publishing company a fortune in the process? But I can’t plot the Da Vinci Code, I am not particularly interested in stomach-flipping twists and turns. I want to talk about how things smell, I want to get inside moments, I want to take photographs with words and let that fill my reader up.
Then I met Colette. Quite by accident. She was given to me in the form of a thick volume, by a friend passing through Germany in a campervan. She told me sensory descriptions were enough. She told me twists and turns were immaterial, that the colour and feel of an interaction were enough. That my relationship with the world, that my observation of the world, was enough. That how I work with words instinctively, is fine. She told me how I want to tell my stories is enough.
That’s why I chose Colette, why I wrote The Park. Why she is so important to me, not as the writer who made me want to write – but as the writer who told me it was okay to write as I write. Want to read The Park and an essay far more eloquent and concise than this post? And six other tales of similar relationships with writers like Ian McEwan and Douglas Adams? You can. Just buy Sincere Forms of Flattery on Amazon or through Bkclb. And enjoy.