Last week I saw Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author of no less than 127 books, speak at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature. It was wonderful. He openly and generously shared his creative process, the source of his stories and characters, his love for classic tales, the family secrets so secret you don’t know they are even there, and a deep need to pass on stories of injustice.
A week on and one message won’t leave me.
“Stories, characters, names… they discover me.” He said.
As I take this in – they discover me – the pressure starts to lift.
You see I’m great at the game of following a trail, sniffing out a story, listening to my intuition and taking one step at a time to uncover the truth and travel to the heart of the matter. I’m comfortable stepping into the unknown, heading off to explore, uncertain of what awaits. Sometimes I hear the heart of a country calling me, sometimes a person and off I set.
I love this game. But every so often it gets out of balance. Sometimes I feel like it is all down to me and me alone. If I don’t go out there find it, grab the opportunity, take action, make it happen, it won’t happen. And when it doesn’t happen that is all down to me too.
And my goodness that is an incredible amount of pressure to put on oneself. Just enough to block it from happening at all. Just enough to be exhausted before you even start. Just enough to feel resentful at all the one way street effort you have to put in to make it happen that you can shove it, you don’t want it after all.
I forget the wonder, ease and fun of creating. I forget it will discover me. I forget that I don’t have to do anything at all. Except be ready to be found and welcome it in when it arrives.
And so it felt like coming up for air whilst I listened to the wonderful tales of the way stories, characters and names that wanted to be shared, wanted to be told found their way, somehow, to Michael. And the grace and the joy he experienced as they arrived and he welcomed them in.
In Kensuke’s Kingdom, a desert island story, there is a Japanese sailor.
‘I met a Japanese boy at a book signing. I asked his name so I could write a dedication in his book. “Kensuke”, he said. “Can I borrow your name?” I said, “I want to use it in a book I’m writing.” “Yes”, he said. And so Kensuke discovered me.’
‘I was lying on my bed struggling to think up a name for the boat. I went looking for names in marinas and didn’t find anything I liked. Then I heard a song on the CD player downstairs. It was Buddy Holly, “Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue. I love you.” Perfect I will call the boat Peggy Sue. And so Peggy Sue discovered me.’
‘I challenge you to think of a name for a dog and not come up with Rover! I met a group of kids from Peckham and I had my dog with me. “What’s that?” asked one of the boys. “A dog.” I told him. “What sort of dog?” “A lurcher.” I said. “What’s it called?” he asked. “Bercelet.” I said. “Bercelet! What kind of name is that? I’ve got a dog,” he told me. “What’s yours called,” I asked. “Stella Artois,” he said. Bingo. Stella Artois discovered me.’
As I listen to these these tales I recount the times when what I’m creating has discovered me.
Like the time I was writing an article on Meditation. I attended an event and thought I’d love to meet Deepak Chopra. 10 minutes later he sat down next to me. We did the interview right there and then.
Like the time I decided I’d love to team up with someone working globally to create positive change. The next day Mel Young, founder, Homeless World Cup, sat down next to me and shared the story of the Homeless World Cup. We worked together for 6 years growing the impact of football and serving over 250,000 people who were homeless in over 70 nations.
I didn’t have to do anything, fly anywhere, chase anything or anyone, make anything happen. It came and found me. It was effortless, felt a little like it was meant to be, a little like it was meant just for me.
This game can come with other discomforts. When the trust has gone it is replaced by the fear of what if it doesn’t discover me? When will it show up? If I just get off my bum and go and look for it that will be much quicker. And I’m back in the trap of it all being down to me.
So I remember that it will come and find me. I will welcome it in along with the joy and grace that accompany.
And oh how I love being found, it discovering me.
What would you love to discover you today?
[Photo by : Bath Festival of Children’s Literature]