I remember an article I read, years ago, about Damon Albarn (lead singer of Blur / mastermind behind Gorillaz etc.) and his obsession with disused fairgrounds.
It was especially interesting, because you can hear that obsession coming through in so much of his music. At the time, I wondered how aware he was of the influence – whether it was a conscious choice to include it in his music, or whether it drifted in there without him realising it.
Writers are often the same. When you read lots of books by the same author, you swiftly notice their ‘motifs’ – images, settings, characters or themes that sneak into virtually everything they do, in one way or another.
It makes sense, when you think about it psychologically. I mean, what is writing, if not a way of processing the world around you? If you’re influenced by certain things, you’re much more likely to write about them, whether you mean to or not.
Analysing recurring motifs
Anyway – there’s a reason I’m babbling on about this. Recently, I completed a children’s book. It’s a total slapstick comedy farce-type affair (yep, I’ve returned to funny – I can’t stay serious for long), and it’s mostly about ghosts.
Now, everyone who knows me knows that I write about ghosts all the time. I wouldn’t describe that so much as a motif… more an obsession.
What was more surprising was that somehow, a slug ended up making an appearance, right at the end.
Had I intended a slug to be in it? No. Was it planned? Absolutely not. And why is this noteworthy? It’s the third time it’s happened!
Slugs, slugs, everywhere there’s slugs!
The first ‘slug-based’ book that I wrote was Sol the Slug’s Night Before Christmas, which went on to win Amazon’s Children’s Christmas Story competition in 2016. That book was exceptionally sluggy.
The next slug occurrence was in The Society of Adaptable Arthropods, which all going to plan, should be released some time in 2020. Again, the slug just sort of popped up in it, without me intending to include it.
And now I’ve gone and done it again. People will begin to think I’ve got some sort of unhealthy slug obsession!
Examining the motive behind the motif
The reason slugs keep appearing in my writing is pretty easy to figure out, actually. My house has a lot of slugs, living under the floorboards. I usually see one sludging across the lounge or kitchen at least once a week.
But I think it goes further than that. After all, the writing mind doesn’t just report, does it? We don’t write things because we’re simply narrating what’s going on around us. We comment. We have opinions. We use writing to understand things better (or our reactions to things).
I think perhaps, slugs have started to represent something to me. My house, perhaps; which is one of the few houses I’ve lived in that’s haunted by slugs, rather than ghosts. Ha!
They also represent chaos, and artistry. They make my rugs messy with their slime, but I kind of like the way it glitters in the morning light. They’re very calming too. I like that they don’t move fast.
Not slug-obsessed, honest…
This is beginning to sound like the ramblings of a mad slug-crazed fiend, so I’m going to stop right there. But the main point is… we all have our motifs, which burst out in our writing, whether we intend them to or not. I say embrace them. Explore them more deeply. Figure out what makes them so fascinating to you.
Hey, inspiration has to come from somewhere, right?