When I moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe, a friend said how lucky he thought I was - no one knew me in South Africa, I could re-invent myself, I could become someone I never could back home. This week, I've had a chance to think about that a lot. My novel, 'Harcourt's Mountain' has had a re-invention of its own. The cover is, as they say, exactly the same, but different.
(2021 Update: The cover has changed since this blog was written and amazingly, it's still 'the same but different'. It now has the added element of a human figure, as you can see.)
The first cover had a mountain, a lake, a forest, a wolf and some flowers. This cover has a mountain, a lake, a forest, and a wolf - no flowers. Yet the interpretation of those elements, by two different designers, is as different as strawberries are to onions. And it's not just the lack of flowers. The old cover was a bit chocolate boxy, attractive, fruity even, but not real. The new cover is as rugged as the land the book is set in. With nary a strawberry in sight. And while the first cover wasn't wrong in its depiction of elements found in the book, the second cover shows you the book's heart.
We can change ourselves to a certain extent. Especially the outside - a new haircut, go to the gym, a new diet, a new city, country, marital status, job, a new profession even. Occasionally, we're brave enough to make changes internally that we never could when surrounded, as intensely as we are at home, by our past and our families.
It's human nature to dream about being someone else. That's the appeal of stories, no matter what form they come in. Stories touch a deep part of us. They allow us to become someone else for a while. And that's important. Call it escapism if you want, but it's been proved that people who read are more empathetic to others, more able to image what someone's life might be like and do it with far less judgement than non-readers.
Storytelling is important. But here's the question, what story are you telling yourself about yourself? Are you telling the story of the you deep inside, the you, you want to be, the you, you could be? It may just take a slight shift in the story to ignite the re-invention.
Re-inventing ourselves, as with 'Harcourt's Mountain', doesn't necessarily mean becoming someone completely different. I think it means becoming more the selves we were meant to be all along. Making the changes that let the truth and the beauty shine through.
What story are you telling?
Stand back! I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it!