September 22, 2010

Guest post by writer Margaret Miller on Mystery

I met Margaret, a fellow writer who has taught writing and literature, a month ago when I approached her at the entrance of a bookstore in Penticton, BC, with my books. We were soon chatting, ran into each other again the next day as our spouses were checking in for Ironman Canada and have kept in touch since. Please enjoy her guest post about the universal pull of Mystery.

There is something about a mystery that draws us in. Several months ago, I began reading a mystery novel recommended by a friend. The first night, I sat down with the book after dinner and stayed up much later than I meant to, completely engaged by the story's intrigue and realistic world of characters that had been created by the writer. The following day, I picked up the mystery more than once for a brief escape, following the fictional lawyer to Florida as he arranged to trap his colleagues in a complicated scheme.

Books provide a way for many of us to temporarily leave behind the problems and questions posed by our own lives and family. Interestingly, though, the books we often choose to read are mysteries, filled with as much conflict as the very lives we are attempting to momentarily escape. Somehow searching for solutions to fictional situations and piecing together the relationships between imaginary characters entertains us in a way that working out our own reality does not.

The men and women invented by creative writers often live more daring and exotic lives than any of us ever will. We can experience the thrill of such an existence without having to suffer the consequences of their errors.

And perhaps we even learn something from having traveled to places--even imaginary ones--where we had not traveled before.

Books provide an exciting and memorable flight from the routine and uncertainty of our daily lives. But mystery and uncertainty in real life are not all bad. In fact, it's easy to underestimate the important part they play in making our days interesting and challenging and even worth getting up for in the morning.

We may strive to order and structure the days of our lives. We may try in various ways to know and predict our futures. But without the surprise of tomorrow and the hope of discovering those parts of ourselves which are yet unexplored, the portion of reality we do know promises little excitement.

There is something about a mystery that draws us in and moves us to figure it out. Perhaps that is why God, in His unfathomable wisdom, reveals our lives to us like pieces of a mystery to work through and solve one day at a time.

Margaret Miller is a writer with more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bowling Green State University and has taught writing and literature at the college and high school levels. Widely published, her work has been featured in Texas Monthly, Ms. Magazine, and dozens of other publications here and abroad. She and her former husband are collaborating on a book about co-parenting after divorce. She lives in El Paso, Texas. You can email her at MM28 (AT)

Margaret is a big fan of my book A Work in Progress: Exercises in Writing - please read her review.

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