I am just going to write because I cannot help it – Carol Goodman

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By Carol Goodman

I am just going to write because I cannot help it. Thanks to the 2016 Charlotte Bronte exhibit at the Morgan Library I now have this quote on a magnet that hangs over my desk, but I’ve felt for a long time that I was compelled to write. ♥

From the first stories I wrote in 4th grade that featured a girl named Carol who lived with a magical herd of horses, I have used writing as an escape from real life. I wrote my first novel The Lake of Dead Languages when my father was dying from cancer. The book had little to do with my father, but by the end of writing it I felt like I’d found a way of speaking to the dead.

For the next ten years I made a living from writing so I had a different kind of need compelling me to sit down at the desk each morning. I learned, too, that just because life has driven you to pick up the pen that doesn’t mean the words are going to come easily. That’s where routine and good habits come in. I got used to writing most mornings, sitting down at my desk after walking my daughter to school. Some days I’d feel a little thrill of excitement as I made my way home to my desk, but on others I’d feel a bit of dread. What if the words didn’t come today? What if I couldn’t figure out what happened next?

Dread or not, I knew I had to sit myself down and try. Sometimes, too, the dread came from something I was afraid of facing. The compulsion that may have started as a diversion from life ends up, like most escape plans, leading back to the thing you were afraid of. In the fictional worlds I create, though, I hope to make sense of the things I’m afraid of in the real world.

In fact, most of my books begin with the fears that keep me up at night. The Other Mother began with a memory I had from my early days of motherhood: I was carrying my infant daughter up a flight of stairs and I suddenly pictured myself holding her over the balcony and dropping her.

I know now that was an intrusive thought — a symptom of Post Partum OCD — but at the time it was horrifying! The only thing that comforted me was that I’d always had a wild imagination. I wasn’t going to hurt my baby any more than I’d have left my family to go live with a herd of magical horses. I wondered, though, what might have happened to a mother who didn’t know that. And so was born my narrator, Daphne Marist and the plot of The Other Mother which is so much scarier than anything that ever happened to me!

And so I go on, taking my fears to the page, perhaps at first to evade them, or to struggle with and tackle them into submission, or to lessen their burden by sharing them with you, Dear Reader (You’re welcome!). I can’t really help it. I’m just glad I’ve got something to do with them.

Charlotte Bronte wrote the words we started with when she was nineteen, a dissatisfied daydreaming teacher at Roe Head School. When she was 33 and had just suffered the deaths of her three siblings she wrote in a letter to W.S. Williams, “The faculty of imagination lifted me when I was sinking three months ago; its active exercise has kept my head above water since; its results cheer me now, for I feel they have enabled me to give pleasure to others. I am thankful to God, who gave me the faculty; and it is for me a part of my religion to defend this gift, and to profit by its possession.” Me too, Charlotte.


Carol Goodman is the award winning and bestselling author of sixteen novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize, and, in collaboration with her husband Lee Slonimsky, the urban fantasy Watchtower trilogy. Her latest novel, The Other Mother, is out now.

carolgoodman.com

 

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