In Greek mythology a chimera is an animal that is part lion and part goat. Myth has other hybrids too, think of centaurs, both horse and man share the same DNA. Well, it appears that once again myth is a sign post to a larger truth.
An article in last year’s Scientific American (I know, I know, I’m behind on my reading) explains how cells from a fetus can cross from the placenta into the mother. And those cells remain in the mother, becoming part of her DNA, for the rest of her life. Apparently this is true even for babies who die before birth. The mother still carries part of them.
So what does this have to do with writing, you ask? I’ve been thinking about our literary DNA and the way we carry the many parts of past inside us. Everyone does. But for writers, their pasts become part of their literary DNA expressed in the themes and voice of their works.
Hopefully writers don't write about the same event over and over. It’s usually much more subtle. Events leave fingerprints. And those fingerprints are left on the stories we write. Think about themes: redemption, abandonment, the fragility of hope, how to save a life. While characters and events change in each story, familiar themes run through them like DNA. Why? Because they are drawn from the same deep well.
Here’s an interesting fact about fetal cells found in the mother. They can be healing. They can actively fight off disease. I write to tell a story, but also to explore and wrestle with questions that I don’t have answers for. I tackle those questions over and over. And in the writing I have glimpses of truth, and I make connections and, at the best times, it is healing.