It’s nearly a year since I started this blog, and looking back over the range of posts covered, I’m startled by the variety of themes covered, from riding to family history, to Jubilee celebrations, to ‘going grey’.
Does this mark me out as a shallow butterfly? Or as a woman of many parts? (some of which are going grey). Well, I’ve always written on a spectrum of topics in my books, but the majority have been subjects close to my heart. They’ve been voyages of exploration that I’ve undertaken, sometimes for a particular length of time: my journeys to Russia, fifty-nine in total, took over my life for twelve years.
But there are deep threads that bind this together, and make a whole out of what might seem at first glance to be a disparate collection of subjects. Ancient traditions, and the myths of different cultures and religions have always been at the heart of my interests, along with folk lore, and personal narratives. Even as a sixteen-year-old I was plundering the Birmingham Reference Library for undiscovered folk songs in my spare time (how sad is that?), so I reckon I can claim that it’s ingrained! Methods of developing personal spirituality have been a part of my life since I was twenty: meditation, the cosmic ‘map’ of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and the symbolism of alchemy all arrived on the horizon at about that time. Anything learnt and distilled from these traditions does, I hope, feed into what I write and how I teach, in terms of experience and little drops of wisdom that I’ve been given over the years. If spirituality remains completely apart from everyday life and work, it’s not doing its job.
Well, this is turning out to be more serious than I intended! What about the writer who tackles Princess Diana, internet dating, and the social history of shops? One thing leads to another, is all I can really say. Each has a story, and you may find the ‘back story’ in the books. But I only ever tackled one book whose subject held no interest for me (it shall not be quoted here) and it taught me a lesson. If I can’t work up any genuine enthusiasm for a project, best leave it alone, however tempting the offer may be. Though, believe me, for writers, really tempting financial offers are rare – so there’s not usually too much of a dilemma on that score. I love what I write about. But also, the moment may pass, and other themes may start to fire up my imagination. The Russian traveller has come in from the cold.
Sometimes a writer is expected to be a fountain of knowledge on everything she has ever written. The truth is that once it’s down on the page, it may disappear from the mind. I use my own books sometimes for reference. I was heartened to hear Peter Ackroyd, the noted biographer, say that he moves on with every new book:
‘Once the book is completed I tend to lose interest in it, it’s despatched into the world…I try not to pay much attention to it after its birth in the world… It’s just a question of moving on to the next thing.’
(Interviewer) ‘And do you remember what you’ve researched…?’
’No, I can’t remember at all… It all has to be evacuated in order to make room for the next subject, otherwise my head would be a sort of bedlam of voices characters and which it would be very difficult to control or discipline.’
Peter Ackroyd talking to Kirstie Young on Desert Island Discs Fri 25th May 2012
Oh Peter, I’m with you there!
So, to return to my theme, or my multitude of themes, I’m going to term myself a Kaleidoscope Blogger. Lots of pretty pieces which are forever shifting around, but which can come together to show a pattern. A true kaleidoscope image has a centre, and a symmetry. You can combine the pieces in an almost infinite number of ways, and come up with a different image each time. Order, chaos, colour.
Stay with me! There will be more to come. I may surprise you – and myself – with my next blog.