Nothing like going to a book fair to stimulate creative thoughts about writing. I was speaking of my search for an image for The Fate of Pryde, the second in the Trilogy of Remembrance, which is still only at the end of the first draft. Somehow, I feel that I need something to tie the whole story together—not plot or character but an image, by which I mean some fundamental physical “thing” around which the story can revolve. It’s glue for the story, but a lot more.
I’m a modest student of the works of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and Joseph Campbell, the American teacher and mythologist.
In his book, Pathways to Bliss, Campbell has a chapter entitled, Myth and the Self. It’s his
view that each of us should attempt to answer this question: What is my own personal myth. If everything that I value in my life—loved ones, vocation, financial security, personal freedom—
should be lost, what do I, personally live for?
Actually, Carl Jung posed exactly the same question for himself and was surprised that he had no answer. But he had an interesting way of finding out. He returned to his childhood preoccupation with building whole cities out of little stones. Now why would a man in his late thirties do such a thing? He recalled that he went into a different state of mind, probably best described as free-flowing imagination, arising from intense concentration on a physical activity. Probably today, we call this being in the creative zone. And he was surprised at the fantasies, reveries and recollections which floated to the surface. I think all artists, particularly my protagonist Alexander Wainwright, regard this as a real treasure trove of material.
So, I asked myself the similar question and sat down to write. One of the first things that floated up was beautiful images of stained glass windows. As I have said, I’ve had little in the way of church attendance in my life and certainly not in my childhood. These stained glass images floating up must be, not from my childhood, but rather from some other source. Maybe it was the writer’s psyche which produced these images and reacted to them so strongly during my visit to St. James Cathedral. That’s why I think the stained glass is important to me, Alexander and the novel.
I have almost no scientific background and consequently have a poor understanding of the refraction of light producing color in our retinas and our brains. But, despite that, I think I’m drawn to the idea of light coming from some source [I know, literally the sun] and causing our eyes and brains to turn it into color. It’s the effect of a source from “outside” us causing our inner mechanisms to create something—color. Does that mean that unless an eye or a brain perceives the light acting in this way, there is no color? Physicists no far better than I. Perhaps to me, it symbolizes the creative process itself—our turning a light filled world into a color-filled world.
This may be the significance of this recurring image for me and the novel. It symbolizes, it expresses the creative process in us. And so, in that way it really is a fitting image to use in the novel where Alexander must create, for the first time, in stained glass. But to answer the question, which Campbell poses, I would have to say that for me, it’s the writing and the seeking of understanding.