Hauntings: learning about the novel

Photo credit: Image edited from original by Gavin Kelman

His skin is lilac beneath grey shadows.

His eyes are dark and wide to drink the low light.

Come closer.

See the slim limbs, the strange skin.

He sits unmoving in the hardwood chair

in the dusty attic room.

This boy has grown roots,

become a nest of stems and branches, 

a living, breathing tree, 

alone in the dreaming night.

Here is a tale worth believing. 

W.J.B, 2019

I’m sharing this as part of a series of posts about the process of working on my first novel, and what I’m learning along the way.

This image – the child become a tree – came to me last year. It was part of a much more elaborate dream, but unlike other details, it lingered long after I woke.

The feelings that accompanied it were an odd mix of peace, enclosure, excitement and terror. It fascinated me, and started me down the road of paying attention to my dreams again, and (when I remembered) writing them down.

This image has tried to give birth to short stories – and I have plenty of notes, so it still might produce a finished one. But more than that, it pointed the way to the novel I’m working on now. (The Book of Dreams – working title – is driven in part by one of the main character’s dreams, and the shadow life he weaves around them.)

Anyway, if anyone asks where my ideas come from – a popular question apparently – I can legitimately say: “It came to me in a dream!” 😊

The purpose of art is not necessarily therapy or personal insight, but it can be a kind of working out and working through the deepest things in us. And a way that feels enlivening, and exciting – like a voyage of discovery, rather than a necessary chore.

And, unlike therapy, art (in this case writing) produces something outside the self. Something that can have a life beyond its subject or creator, and his or her closest relations. I do hope it will!

In any event, this image is one among many inhabiting my headspace, walking through my dreams, and haunting (in a helpful way!) my writing hours at the moment. And it’s becoming part of the motive force for new work – a fascinating, deeply personal and quietly strange process.

And a process I’d encourage you to play with too – there’s something magical about learning in this undirected, emergent way. I’m loving it!

So, what’s been haunting you?

What’s asking to be born?

And what are you doing with it?

If you feel moved to, why not tell me in the comments below, or on one of my social media feeds. I’m a good listener. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Hauntings: learning about the novel

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Annie! It’s much appreciated — and very nice to know that someone is reading! 🙂 If you like this, consider checking out my first li’l book on Amazon. There’s a link on this page (top right if you’re using a PC/Mac, or somewhere below the posts if you’re reading on a mobile device).

      > >


  1. Anita

    Lovely questions to reflect on- so tempting. Your writing- the words & the images- are transportation to a totally different perspective- a different world actually.


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