Where do stories come from?
That for me is the mystery, the uncanny nature of creativity.
As a hybrid psychogeographic-fiction writer, tramping rural Gower (the South West Wales peninsula that is my home) on a daily basis affords a creative larder to plunder.
The experiences of doing so feed into all the senses: visual, aural, tactile, and kinaesthetic. Researching a place on foot reveals marks other than those that can be seen with the eye: walking brings about a reconnection with the past and a resurfacing of personal memories that leave imprints lodged deep in the mind. This intimate, and indeed passionate, method of researching is integral to my writing. My psychogeographic moochings also endorse what I feel but find difficult to articulate: that magic link between walking and creativity.
Walking affords me a new way of seeing – a writer’s way of seeing, and countless opportunities that enable me to process fact into fiction. When I walk for the purpose of psychogeography, I walk alone. Though I have never thought of myself as ‘lonely’ or consciously felt ‘loss’, when I sit at my desk to write later, I venture once again into that very intense and lonely mental space that walking the landscape evokes for me. In this state of mind, I create characters who seem to carry an inner loneliness.
All my stories have been born out of the reality of personal experience. They have started with a walk, an object found, a memory stirred, a conversation overheard. They have often been shocked into being by the discovery of something I least expected, such as the maggot-crawling carcass of a horse in a field off the beaten track. The stench of rotten flesh lingering long, as did the buzz of flies, the image of the distended abdomen refusing to go away until I had written it away in a story called ‘The Grey Mare’:
‘He would wake with a start from the dream at the sound of the shotgun and he would sit bolt upright in his bed, sweating and shaking just as he’d done on the night it had happened. For this dream told him, repeatedly, that it had all actually happened.
There were never any scenes in the dream of his brother: he found that strange, that the consequences didn’t play out. All he saw was that damn mare. He saw it where he had left it in the wet meadow, swelling and distorting, the belly distending. Saw crows and magpies perched on its back, beaking and bobbing its drying hide, pecking into the meat below. Saw buzzards gorging on the carrion. Watched the flies taking hold of the flesh, the maggots crawl and feast. Saw the beast picked clean until only a dried heap of bones remained and a skull with the eyes gouged and the sockets hollow and exposed.’
Stories have quite literally come out of nowhere, dropped from the sky as did the hang-glider who descended at dusk into the birch trees in my garden. It ignited a spark that burned long in the imagination until it found itself many years later on the page in ‘The Devil’s Spit’ (published elsewhere in Horla’s pages: see Horla fiction).