Saturday, 31 December 2011

Last Day of the Year

It’s the last day of 2011 and I’m in the mood for reflection. This time last year I was making a stack of lamb souvlaki (marinated lamb kebabs) in our van by the beach in Gythio, Greece and generally getting ready to see the New Year in with a whole bunch of European strangers. It was massive fun (I can’t actually remember the end of the evening) and the year spent travelling was hugely productive for me on the writing front. However, life since then feels like one long round of ‘interesting times’.

New Year’s Eve 2010

Well not quite, since the faux-Chinese curse is ironic, and I cannot in all honesty say that life has been full to the brim with disorder and trouble, though there have been moments…

On returning home in March the decision not to settle back down to our old life in Leicestershire prompted my husband and myself to put our house on the market. We moved to South Cambridgeshire in August, just as he signed a contract to work for a few months in Coventry, so in theory I had all week, while he was away, to write.

Theories are all very well, but I have been far less productive in my new house than I was while travelling in the van. I have not been taking paid employment, so have had time to invest in my writing. In reality I have squandered a fair amount of time unpacking boxes, training an adorable puppy, visiting family, participating in a reading group, re-covering an old sofa – doing anything other than writing.

Pommie aged 8 months - It’s hard to believe this huge dog is still a puppy.

Looking in the mirror of my last three months I just see a vast amount of frittered away time – time when I should have been getting on with editing my almost finished historical novel. The trouble is that the editing is leaving me with an unsatisfied itch. It’s that need to keep up the creativity, to write something new, and it’s causing me to make editing into a heavy slog.

When I do get into editing I often feel a sense of achievement. I managed two whole chapters yesterday and felt pleased with my work, but the chapter before dragged on over a week and made me feel that the whole process was going to take forever. My time being mentored has now finished and I have set myself the target of having the novel, with accompanying synopsis and proposal for a sequel, ready to send to agents/publishers by March 2012. I need to speed up.

In an attempt to scratch my itch I bought a promising book – The Creative Writing Coursebook (Julia Bell & Andrew Motion) – which I hoped would inspire me with some good writing exercises. So far I have failed to read more than a few pages, but I am determined to make more use of it.

I do so want to get back into gear and to help me I have decided to get some writing onto this blog with a degree more regularity. Yes, I know the last post was in July! This does sound a bit New Year resolutionish, and while I don’t really do resolutions, not being one to set myself up for certain failure, I do want to get the creative back into my writing.  I need a way of keeping the editing moving along, and experiencing more fulfilment from my writing, so I think that whatever I write will need to be quick and short. To that end I have decided to have a go at the River of Stones. It’s about making the time to engage with the world around you and to precisely capture a moment in writing. It reminds me a bit of Haiku and follows on perfectly from what I’ve been trying to do in my own writing since attending an Arvon week a few years ago. I came across the idea in the blog of another writer, Gerald Hornsby, who also frequently travels in his motorhome. Hopefully being part of a larger community of writers all trying to do this will help motivate me in the way being part of a writing group, or contributing to the 100 words website, used to. We’ll see if I can pocket my first small stone tomorrow.


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