Now, I know it might seem odd to take my Joy from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows — John Koenig’s masterful collection of made up words — but bear with me.
All the words in the Dictionary are new, and this is important… they’re “not necessarily intended to be used in conversation, but to exist for their own sake, to give a semblance of order to a dark continent, so you can settle it yourself on your own terms, without feeling too lost — safe in the knowledge that we’re all lost.”
Writing fantasy brings me joy
Writing fantasy brought coastlines to the lost, dark continent of my life, and allowed me to give it topography, mountains, valleys, caves, lakes, plains, flora, fauna, characters, and of course, magic. It allowed me to find my way in the real world and to create in my own made up worlds. After a little while, the creativity became more and more generous, taking over my real world too. Small, mundane things drew creativity from me. My mind discovered fantastic ways of being and doing. The portal between worlds became less of a doorway and more of a twitch of transition.
Sometimes when I tell people I write fantasy, I can see the question marks sprout from their heads like cartoon thought bubbles. They register the lines on my face and my grey hair first and a tiny frown appears, as if they wonder why someone my age would admit to reading fantasy, let alone writing it. Then they think about what they know of me: nurse, midwife, manager, CEO, business owner, facilitator, coach, wife, and mother, and they cock their head as if wondering whether I’ve lost the plot (pun intended). Then there’s a kind of polite ‘Oh, that’s [insert an inert word like nice or interesting here]’. And then it’s time to change the subject, their eyes sliding past me for saner folk.
And once in a while, people’s eyes will light up and they’ll want to know more. They, like me, are ringlorn.
Koenig’s Dictionary describes ringlorn as “the wish that the modern world felt as epic as the one depicted in old stories and folktales — a place of tragedy and transcendence, of oaths and omens and fates, where everyday life felt like a quest for glory, a mythic bond with an ancient past or a battle for survival against a clear enemy, rather than an open-ended parlour game where all the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.”
I spent decades living an ordinary life. I let it be constrained by the made up rules of the parlour game. Work and grief hemmed me in until, one day, five and a half decades down the track, they didn’t. I began to hope, and I began to write.
Writing fantasy is tapping into that journey of transcendence, from ordinary to fantastic, from drudge to dweomer. Writing my stories is the ultimate coaching gig. Drawing potential from my flawed characters, helping them survive and thrive, outwitting the external villains while struggling against their internal monsters, all the while using the clues of oaths and omens to battle ogres and dragons — or to befriend them.
Honouring the mythic bond
When I write fantasy, I feel I’m honouring the mythic bond of my own ancient path, paying tribute to past matriarchs and story tellers who’ve brought up their families against the odds, and instilled them with a love of stories, and a hope for a better life.
For these, and for so many more reasons, writing fantasy brings me joy.
(And, of course, the impending end of lockdown for Victoria brings me much joy! I can hug my kids soon.)
This blog was originally written for and published by Gillian Barnes, and I am grateful to Gillian and her project #GBWritesWithOthers2021 on Twitter and her own website. If you enjoyed this piece, you can explore more of Gillian’s blog and her other guests HERE or follow Gillian on Twitter @geezfresh.
Fantasy Mind Image: Stefan Keller from Pixabay
Ruby Ring Image: Peter Lomas from Pixabay