an article last week, and something the writer said struck a chord with me. Here it is:
"We are called Homo sapiens — the wise man — and perhaps that’s true. But I would say that what really defines us as a species, what makes the difference between me and my cat, is something I would call Homo narrans — storytelling man. I can talk to you — and you can talk to me — about dreams and fears. But my cat can’t sit with other cats and do those things. Life is really about the day-to-day writing of an enormous new chapter in the history of human beings." That was Henning Mankell, the creator of Wallander, considering the power of storytelling in Africa, which is something I have touched on here before, although in a different context.
I love the idea of belonging to that newly-coined species of our human race--sitting on the storytelling branch, so to speak. It's an interesting thought. Do we who make up stories have a rerouted synapse or a differently configured brain to those who don't? I'm not a neuroscientist--I have no idea, and I shouldn't think it was possible to tell anyway. The marvellous Anne Rooney might shed some light--she is a mine of information on all matters scientific. The brain and how it really works is still mostly a big fat mystery--that I do know. All I am certain of is this: that my brain 'feels' different when I am writing. It's doing it now, in fact. But it's difficult to describe exactly how, for all of my storytelling skills seem to desert me when I try. Last week I was at Birmingham Young Readers and a seven year-old girl asked me that very question. "How does it feel when you write your stories." It was a brilliant thing to ask, and I told her so (giving myself a little more time to think of an answer in the process!). I am not afraid to admit that I babbled. There were a lot of ums and wells and sort-ofs contained in my reply because I found it incredibly hard to articulate in any way that would make sense to her. I'm not sure she was all that impressed. But I wonder how many of the writers reading this could describe the physical changes which happen when the muse is visiting? Go on now--I know you'll all be incredibly precise and show me up horribly! If I really try, I can tell you that for me it feels like everything has shifted a little to the left. That side of my brain feels awake and fizzy, but somehow spongy and malleable at the same time. The left side of my face feels slightly numb. I'm aware, but not concentrating in the way that I would if I were threading a needle, say, or performing a tricky task like glueing china. I suppose it is a state of altered consciousness, and yet there are no drugs involved (well, maybe the occasional paracetamol). I'm focused, and yet disengaged from the outside world. I can be in this state and still drive safely. Feel free to tell me I'm weird. Of course I am. Weird is the storybranch this homo narrans sits on most comfortably. Preferably with a notebook at my fingertips.