We moles are half blind. Not so blind we don’t see shapes and movement, but blind enough to lose outline and detail. Some sharp-sighted creatures may think this a disadvantage, but I have come to realise that fuzzy edges have benefits of their own; that there is a slippery place between seeing and recognising where all things are possible. In the physical world of Knocklofty this may be a tree that for a moment or two is full of tiny birds, but then reasserts itself as a banksia with cones. Or I might stand still for a while, not wanting to disturb a baby wallaby – until the while has extended so long, I have to acknowledge that it is a charred log. The importance of this in between space is no less for our interior worlds.
Being a painstaking sort of a mole, I find that one of the hazards of writing stories set in places and times that are not my own, is that I am often visited by moments of self-doubt. If I don’t know whether what I am about to write next is strictly true, my nib hesitates mid-air. In an instant a light bulb illuminates the part of my mind that tells me I need to check my facts. It then goes on to warn me that if these facts are not checked, I shall find myself in a veritable rabbit warren of false assumptions and will never find my way out.
This lightbulb is a false friend. It leads down one of two dead ends. One is to the point and provides me with so much information, that there is no place left for my imagination to go; and the other leads not to a warren but a metropolis of intriguing historical facts that bare no relation to the story being written. In short, a mole loses the plot.
It is a perfidious lightbulb and it draws its power directly from the bulb that ignites creative ventures: the delicious full immersion research that engages the heart and tickles the imagination. This true bulb never switches itself on at moments of indecision, but in those moments my poor mind is infused by an amnesia.
What I need when my pen hesitates mid-air is not a lightbulb. What I need is a gently staying paw. I may squirm a little, but must not leave my chair, must wait out the urge to scurry down to the library to pin down hosts of facts as if they were poor struggling butterflies. I need to be led to that dreamy but sparky space that I had as a wee mole – before my mind was clouded by facts, when I had to gather all my senses together to view my scanty knowledge, take wild leaps and intuit a cohesive story.