Where Do Stories Come From?
A Social Flycatcher
One possibility is that I make up stories. I dream them up, I fantasize them up, I just make them up. They come from me, from my brain or my mind or my heart. If that's where the come from, that's ok with me. I'm convinced that dreams, fantasies, stories are really important, often more important than physical objects and things you can see, so if they spontaneously arise from somewhere inside me, and I write them down, that's fine with me.
But there's another possibility. One that's more exciting. I like this other possibility a lot better.
I spent two weeks in Mexico, north of Tulum, Quintana Roo, writing every day. I was trying to finish the first draft of my second novel, working title "Tulum." Where did the ideas in that draft come from? Did they come from me? Or did they come from somewhere else?
When I first arrived at Bahia Soliman, where I was going to write, I noticed a particular kind of bird that was very pretty, very unusual for me. It's unusual for me because it only lives in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. It's called a "social flycatcher." I don't know why it's called that. Its Wiki explains all kinds of things but not its name.
I think it's called "social" because it doesn't immediately fly away when it's near people. Or other birds and animals. That's just what I think. Anyway, I was wondering about this beautiful bird, and whether it might be near me because it was carrying stories for me and wanted to give some of them to me.
Whenever I got to the point in writing when I couldn't sit at the computer any longer, whenever I got stuck, whenever I had to figure something out about what I was writing, whenever I needed new ideas, whenever I needed inspiration or endurance, I'd go out for a walk. And maybe I'd see one of the social flycatchers.
I liked looking at this very pretty bird. Maybe, I thought, it was carrying the information, the story I needed to write down. And sure enough, after I went for my walk, I would find that I was able to continue to write, that I was able to go on with my writing, that I knew what to type.
This process went on for about two weeks. For about 15,000 words (I had a lot of words before I got to Mexico). And then one day, I thought, "Ah hah. That is the finish line, that is the end of this book, that is how it ends. I will finish this up tomorrow or the next day or the day after. I can see the conclusion, the last paragraph. Finally it has appeared. That's where and how this book ends."
After that I didn't see any of these birds again. No more social flycatchers. Not a one.
There are a lot of possibilities here. Maybe it was time for them to move on to another place to feed. Maybe it was time for them to move west or north on their migration. Maybe they ate all of the bugs where I was. Maybe having passed on whatever information they had for me, they decided to go and help somebody else, somebody else who was dreaming something up. Maybe somebody who was writing, or painting, or writing songs, or making something.
I prefer that they went on to help somebody else.
Wherever they might now be, I want to thank them for all of their help. But, I'm sorry to say, I don't know how to thank them except to write about what a wonderful assistance they were to me and to acknowledge their help.