Last week I did an event at my local library to promote my new children's book The Flying Bedroom. A few children turned up - but a few adults came along as well - some of whom knew me and perhaps were there out of curiosity about the sort of thing I write.After the event one of them came up to me and said he'd he loved the ideas in The Flying Bedroom - "so many metaphors!" he said, and looked at me knowingly.
"Yes," I said, self-consciously. "I know."
Perhaps this is why I always feel slightly awkward when reading my stories to adults. Like dreams, our stories are full of symbols – and symbols are the way our unconscious sends us messages. You don't have to be a psychiatrist to figure out the issues I’m still resolving – you just have to read my children’s books.
In fact, they say that the people in our dreams aren’t themselves at all – they just represent alternative versions of ourselves. Might the same be said of the characters in our stories? Might Elinor be me?
In one adventure in The Flying Bedroom, Elinor wakes up and is appalled to find herself in bed on centre stage, with an entire audience waiting for her to perform. Insecure? Moi?
In the next adventure, Elinor finds her bedroom stranded on the moon and longs to get back home again, to that blue-green marble on which resides 'everyone she knew and everyone who'd ever been'. Might she be trying to tell me that, despite the fact that I love living alone, I do need people after all?Is it Elinor or me who says, 'the world is a big place; it seems a shame to stay in one place all your life when there's a world out there waiting to explore'? - then contradicts herself by saying: ‘it's only when you're far from home that you can see how beautiful it is'? And surely it is Elinor – not I – who speaks the line: "I don't want to kiss Prince Charming!"
The intention to reveal our innermost selves is never intentional - but when we make up stories from the heart, it happens regardless. If we try to deny that our stories reveal something about us, we're like the psychiatrist's patient who is asked to 'write down his dream and bring it in next week to be analysed’. The patient thinks he'll pull the wool over his psychiatrist’s eyes by making something up from scratch, instead. Then, when the psychiatrist analyses the ‘dream’ the patient says, ‘Ha! But it wasn't a dream - I just made it all up.’
And the psychiatrist just smiles and says, 'same difference’.
Do your stories reveal something about you?