Do you ever read someone’s blog posts about things that happened to them in the past and just think, Your life is so much more interesting than mine?
Because I do. All the freaking time.
Like Kristen Lamb. She’s got stories to tell on all sorts of topics, like when she lost her job because of a misdiagnosis and befriended gangsters which resulted in them parking her car rather than stealing it. I read that and I think, “You’ve had such an interesting life.”
Bob Mayer writes things based on his experience in the special forces. I once read an autobiographical book by someone whose sister went crazy, written entirely in poems, and though I’m not trying to say that having your sister go crazy is a good thing, it certainly counts in ‘interesting life’ points.
There’s a line from a Frank Turner song that says “And we’re definitely going to hell, but we’ll have all the best stories to tell.” I don’t particularly want to go to hell. I’m not sure anybody does. But at the same time, I want to have stories to tell. I want to live so that when I’m hanging out with people, I have anecdotes to use.
Oh, I’m funny (apparently — it’s usually unintentional), and I’ll tell stories, but they’re not my stories. They’re stories passed on to me by my sister: her stories, her friends’ stories. Or my brother. They’re stories passed down as family folklore, stories I’ve picked up on the internet, stories people tell me. And I never claim they’re mine. I say, “Someone I know…” or “a friend…” My gift is to make them interesting even when they’re not mine.
But recently it’s occurred to me that that isn’t enough. I want stories. I want my own anecdotes and experiences. I want to bring humour from my own life, not other people’s. I want to use my own background in my novels.
I do a lot of things, in life, generally. Yet they’re routine things. My days are busy, but I’m not gathering stories. I’m in orchestras and bands — they happen every week, and occasionally we have a funny story, usually as a result of our annual tour. I take ballet classes. I do archery. I have music lessons. And these things happen and they use time but they don’t give me any stories. They give me background information, detailed experience, but no stories that I can sit down in ten years’ time and say, “Don’t you remember when…”
What? When the string on my violin came off in a concert? That’s hardly a life-changing experience.
Unfortunately, I know that I’m not the kind of person to have adventures. I’m stuck in a permanent state of being Bilbo before his journey. I’m a coward, I would rather stay at home than go away even on holiday, and I like knowing that I’ve got my books, my bed, and the ability to make the kind of food I like. I like to be safe. I don’t have adventures.
I read books about other people having adventures and I enjoy it. And I get to the end and I think, Rather you than me.
Because however magical the worlds, these days most authors are staying away from the perfect experiences of the hero and they’re highlighting the realism. The cold and the hunger and the lack of sleep and the injuries and the general discomfort. Me? I think, “Yeah, maybe not.”
And I know that in the seventeen and a quarter years that I’ve lived so far, I’ve had more experiences that some of my friends. There was that time I spent a week living on a sailing boat in Norfolk, or the week I spent working with one of the army bands. I’ve tried activities like horse riding and rock climbing and kayaking and all of these things that should give me so many stories.
Yet sometimes I still think, “I need to go on a road trip.” You know. People always go on a road trip to ‘find themselves’. Sometimes it’s a literal road trip: you get in a car and drive. Or hitchhike. Sometimes it’s transplanted into a fantastical setting, like the journey in The Crossing Of Ingo by Helen Dunmore. Sometimes it’s metaphorical. But they always come back with new stories, new experiences, new emotions, and despite hating travelling, I still think, “I want that.”
I’m young. I know that. I’ve got so much time to accumulate stories. But I want the assurance that they will happen at some point, and no one is able to give that to me.
I don’t know what I’m expecting to do by writing this. I think I’m hoping that one of you will say, “I know exactly how you feel. I used to be the same, and then I did [insert wondrous thing here] and I don’t feel it anymore.” Or perhaps I’m hoping that one of you (preferably someone I’ve met in real life and can ascertain is not an axe-murderer) will invite me on a roadtrip. On an adventure to reclaim gold from a dragon, or a key on behalf of an angel who turns out to be evil but it’s okay because we can sort them out because we are Heroes and we are plucky and bold, or a journey to find a prince who went missing, or to search out fragments of soul so that we can defeat the guy destroying everything. On a quest.
Yes. That’s what I need.
I need a quest.
Anyone got one handy?