Everyone loves pandas. A conservation group use the panda as the symbol of what we need to save. They are the subject of memes and rucksacks and animations, and a million stuffed toys.
But no-one ever writes about them. There is no literary panda fiction to get your teeth into. If you want a true story of love, courage and bravery, do not seek out the panda. Why is there no panda Watership Down?
The answer lies in their black and white fur.
Stories have always had a close connection with black and white. The tones are typed out on computer screens and typewriters, written in pen and parchment and paper. Cinema started in monochrome. You can write out every piece of music ever written in black notes on white paper, and play them on ebony and ivory piano keys. Poems sit in chalk on a blackboard. I dream in colour, but many dream in black and white.
All these words and pictures and tunes had to start somewhere. This is where the pandas fit into out story.
There has always been a small population in the mountains of China, radiating creative ideas like a tree processes carbon dioxide. This is why we are fascinated by them, but unable to place them in a single emotional work. It would be like shining a torch into the sun.
When you have writer’s block, visit the pandas in their mountain home. At least find a photograph of one. Stare into that fur, and make sure you have a black pen to hand, and a fresh sheet of white paper.
And you will write an excellent story. But the plot will not involves pandas. They are already there, at the heart of work, nodding in enjoyment.