Almost six months since I wrote in this blog – I am astonished; this length of time is my most impressive delay but it does reflect my ambivalent relationship to my writing at the moment. After the publication of my collection of short stories, Here and There, I came to a halt. I wasn’t sure what to write next and as a result I have a number of half finished stories, a few poems and two incomplete novels. I resorted to writing a few reviews for the blog wenlowdwhisperswordpress.com and made sure I wrote in my journal in the hope these writing activities would jump start my fiction writing again. Meetings with my fellow Oswestry writers is always positive.
I think though the lift will come from travelling. A couple of weeks away in a completely different place is just refreshing.
Well, a record! A whole summer where my fiction writing didn’t run in conjunction with other activities – travelling on the narrow boat, walking the dog, gardening, cooking, swimming – it just disappeared. When I had any time to write it was spent on concrete and sensible projects: appraising, editing and commenting on other people’s writing; writing presentations on WWI poets, Australia and WWI and Assisted Passage to Australia; and letters – lots of letters. A lot of writing was devoted to filling in forms which involved surviving wobbles in digital competence and collapses in technical comprehension. And, of course, I published my book, Here and There A Collection of Short Stories. Now available on Kindle!
There is a degree of complacency and relaxation which arrives with the printed volumes and sighs of joy, relief and satisfaction after the launch.
It takes a while for the urgent need to pick up a pen and write to kick in again. And then something comes along and it is just so important to write.
I have sent my book to the printers, Clays, and expect a few boxes from them in time for the launch on 21st June at The Willow Gallery. Very excited!
I have rediscovered an effective way to avoid serious writing is to go on holiday; and to take that holiday in Ireland is to make it particularly difficult. It was rained, there was mist but enough bright sunlight for the green hills and drama of the coast to insist on personal attendance. I paddled in the Atlantic. I cycled a few kilometres along quiet roads looking onto the bay in Galway from which Columbus set sail. I scrabbled over the klasts of limestone which characterise County Clare. I visited ruins: church, bothy and castle. In the evenings I ate wonderful sea food and drank whiskey (Green Spot or Redbreast); I let my husband have all the Guinness. And in Ireland I was so busy being immersed in stories; from yesterday, from the last century and from the boggy experiences of the bronze age, I don’t have much time to spare for my own.
I thought I would have time on this holiday to use the absence from the duties of home to reflect, refine and write up rough rhymes and lines. I did not.
The Journal. I keep a journal in which, unlike a log or a diary, I make intermittent comments. Sometimes I write a paragraph and at other times a page or even two. I stick in ticket stubs and newspaper cuttings. Sometimes I divert from recording my opinion of events to sketch in an outline for a story or poem. Given this is the easiest form of writing whereby I can simply smear words around with no real regard for structure or vocabulary you would think I would write often. However, I do not.
This week I have not opened the journal to scribble a line because I have been painting a bedroom. Preparation, purchase of paint and application of the paint has taken much much more time and effort than I anticipated. Painting does give a person time to reflect but I did not unstick myself from the paint brush to pick up a pen. The labour required to wash paint off my hands and brush, close the tin and fold over the dust covers makes me push on and stay painting walls for much longer than is sensible.
I did think about my Uncle Reg, who taught me how to drive, and about his truncated career as a painter and decorator. World War 2 made him a soldier. After his experiences he could never return to painting and in the end returned to the busyness of the army. I can understand why as painting a wall with one colour leaves too much leeway for the thoughts to skitter around and lodge firmly in the depressing corner. I ended up using the radio to drown out uncomfortable musings but then it quashes any productive thinking as well.
I was going to paint the hallway as well this month but instead I am going to write in my journal. Well, that’s the plan anyway.
This time I have a stall at a craft fair. It is in a big hall which is light and airy but warm. Some of the other stall holders are already there when I arrive. I hurry to set up my stall. A trestle table is supplied and I have a table cloth to cover it. I arrange my posters and books carefully. I check that they look good then sit down and wait. The customers arrive and I wait. Someone comes to chat. We have a good talk and I tell him about my book, he tells me about his childhood (we are about the same age).
“Nice chatting to you. I’ll buy one.”
A woman comes up next but no sooner has she arrived than she turns and leaves walking away quickly to the opposite side of the hall. It’s then I hear voices drifting over to me.
“I love the colour.”
“How many pockets are there?”
“Is there a bigger one?”
“How many pockets? How many zips?”
“You can never have enough can you?”
I look up and see a handbag stall opposite me. It’s full to overflowing with handbags of all colours. Some are spotted some and are striped but all are selling like hot cakes.
At the end of the afternoon I have sold several books but I have an idea. Next time I could do better if I sold handbags at a slightly increased price with one of my books tucked inside!
The weather over Easter has been grim; has it been anything else this year. Okay, Easter Sunday showed us sun and rainbows but it was water and mud underfoot. Most of this week I have walked the dog in horizontal rain! After which I have spent almost as much time drying her and then drying myself before we could re-enter the house as I had spent on the head down squelching walk. So as soon as I was inside I sought the comfort of a hot drink and a jigsaw.
A jigsaw is a marvellous waste of time. While I am engaged in searching for those elusive pieces, from of the 1000, to perfectly fit a particular spot I am completely unaware of how many minutes, hours, have disappeared. I like it also because in is one of the few times when I can multi-task; have a conversation at the same time. I like it because I ponder on the meaning and context of the picture. I have decided that it could, in my case, be considered a form of meditation or I am simply dithering.
I was contemplating the title I have awarded this blog and decided the words I selected required a little further contemplation and explanation.
I like the word ‘dither’. It points to a spontaneous and momentary hold up in the proceedings; longer than a hesitation but nowhere as long as a postponement. I also like the word because it so aptly describes the fiddle-faddling I engage in before I take the plunge and launch myself at the desk. The sort of dithering I do before I jump in cold water, go out into the rain or blazing heat and at the front door when recheck I have all that is necessary. It does not have the negativity of procrastination that ‘thief of time’ Dickens/Edward Young against which so many politicians, reformers and philosophers rail; see the raft of internet stuff on beating the problem. (I liked the words of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘You don’t have to see the whole staircase , just take the first step.’) It is a much less sinister word than equivocation which infers moral dodgem cars about shouldering proper work; Shakespeare explains it so much better than I do in the Porter’s speech, Macbeth Act 2 Scene 3.
I also think that delay is relevant description of my approach to my work. A delay implies a considered and necessary hiatus in the planned programme. It is tactical rather than impulsive; a logical response to unforeseen circumstances or a social interruption to the routine. Delay is about choice. Though I do bear in mind Pearl S. Buck’s admonition that one ‘should not wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that … just get down to work.’
I must make a ‘shout out’ for my dear, diverting companion when I consider the intensity of words.
I took some books to Yorkshire recently. It is 150 miles away across the Pennines. ‘It’s not a boy!’ is about growing up in Yorkshire. The books went to the Georgian Rooms where I did a book signing at the end of last year. All was well. So far so good. Then while I was there I received an e mail from Lodge Books also in Yorkshire – could I drop some copies off? Some people had been asking for them. I hadn’t taken enough books! I would have to go to the bother (and expense) of posting them. And the customers may have gone.
Always carry spare copies of your book in your car.
I am not driving to and from Northumbria (when I am a passenger the time is reserved form reading; unless it is dark in which case I am assisting driving); I am not in the garden due to a cold, bitterly cold wind; nor am I writing up minutes or writing letters but still I am not writing stories.
I did write in my journal and I have been reading a gripping fantasy by Tanya Huff and I perused the papers and I cooked lunch for our visitors. And now it is essential that I watch the rugby. Thus it is that another day whizzes past and I have not transformed my notes and journal jottings into a cultivated, polished piece of prose or poetry.
New copies of my Robin book have arrived at last!
Available at Whittington Castle shop.
Visited the little shop today and met the treasurer helping behind the counter. He told me that Whittington Castle is the only castle in England owned by a village.
Thank you, John. Fingers crossed it will all make sense in a while.
We’ve obviously bored poor Dennis to sleep. Never mind, Dennis. That’s what IT stuff does for me too.