Do you believe in spirits?
Have you ever suffered an indefinable disquiet in the still of the night, ears straining as you pull the covers tight about your shoulders?
I have. I’ve heard the whispers.
They echo. They reverberate down the years.
I didn’t understand their murmurings at first, but in my youth I don’t think I needed to. To hear was enough – comprehension would come later.
And eventually it did. It took time to decrypt and collate, but I heeded the message.
We all have ghosts, each and every one of us: they trail us like shadows, invisible to outsiders yet insistent nonetheless. A misplaced word is enough to conjure them, so too a deed. Casual cruelties evoke a host, even if the original victim has long since passed from memory.
The spirits remind us of ourselves. They keep us human (and what’s the point of writing if we lose sight of what we are and where we’re going?) We can all benefit from a mouthful of dirt at some point in our lives, and the revenants conjured by memory are only too eager to provide a shovel with which should continue our excavations.
And so we accede. We dig.
Sometimes the bones we unearth provoke laughter, sometimes tears. Still we labour. For deep in our hearts we know that gold awaits. We may not recognise it on a conscious level, but some part of us understands that such delving feeds a hunger.
And how we hunger! As writers, published or not, we each require experience, pleasant or otherwise, to power our inner engines.
We’re haunted, that’s the thing. Harsh words we wish we could retract, mute disinterest we wish we could convert into vocal involvement, they’re all grist to the mill, votive offerings to gods we don’t even believe in. This is the curse of all those who feel compelled to commit words to paper, what sets us apart. We gnaw the bones, hopefully gleaning something of worth from the marrow.
We see ghosts.
What’s worse, we listen to them. We learn from them.
While Macbeth shied from Banquo in Shakespeare’s tragic tale of hubris and regicide, we welcome such spirits to our table. That’s because writers are fearless. That’s because writers are special. The wars we fight in our imaginations may not harm us physically, but they’re no less important for all that. Humanity relies on us. We are its hopes. We are its fears. We are its conscience. Remove the writer, the dreamer, the listener, and the whole house of cards collapses.
This is why, as a member of Mythic Scribes, you should feel proud. The last skald is dead. The druids have been torn from history, replaced by pale imitations in silly robes. Yet the writer remains. Whatever barriers humanity may face, there will always be someone prepared to chip away at the edifice. What better profession would you choose?
What better life could there be?