I’m going to tell you a story. Actually I’m going to tell you two stories – a tale of two tales, if you will – and it goes like this.
A couple of years ago I wrote a short story about a jumper, in which I used knitting as a metaphor for writing. You can see the idea: each stitch is a letter, every row a line of prose, every colour a plot-line, and so on. The story touched on the themes of miscarriage and Greenham Common and I was quite pleased with it at the time, but when I found it again I felt dissatisfied with it. Something was missing. I rewrote and rewrote but it still wasn’t right. But what happened next was pure serendipity…
image removed on request
As you know, I’ve been getting daily writing prompts in my inbox. I set a timer for five minutes and just write without planning or forethought until the timer goes off, when I stop. I’m allowed to finish the word I’m writing but not the sentence, and I’m allowed to read it through once but no more.
So here’s the thing. Today’s prompt was ‘Where Did They Find the Lost Doctors?’ by which they presumably meant the lost episodes of Dr Who. Then again, how you interpret the prompt is up to you, so I chose instead to imagine all the previous incarnations of the Doctor and to wonder where they are now. I decided – or rather, my subconscious decided, since there’s no time for conscious thought – that they are all gathered on Gallifrey; all except Tom Baker who is wandering Earth in search of enlightenment. The older Doctors are teasing Peter Capaldi about being replaced by a woman, and it’s beginning to make him grumpy. They spend their time reminiscing and playing uber-pool with models of various solar systems. When I was finished I thought maybe OH would like to read it and so I typed it up.
Now, when I type up new stories I use a story template so I don’t have to set the font, spacing and margins all over again. And sometimes it happens that another story is still lurking on the template instead of having been deleted after saving to the Short Stories folder. No problem, I thought, I’ll just delete it once I’m finished. But I forgot; so OH received what he thought was one story but which was in fact two.
This is where serendipity comes in – because he actually thought it worked! He said the first ‘Doctors’ bit seemed to fit in perfectly with the second part. So maybe I’ve found the missing bit of my knitting story.
Serendipity! Learn to recognise it when it comes: just because something is a mistake, doesn’t mean it won’t work. Some accidents are happy, after all.
Some, on the other hand, aren’t; like spilling water on my laptop. So while it dries out I’m using OH’s model.