Today was the third day of rain despite bright sunlight. There is something beautiful and disconcerting about rain falling from a blue sky, a single wisp of cloud loosened over head. The potential for rainbows of course. But again, disconcerting. Out of place. I watched an old lady bent and twisted by her years hobble past. Unable to hold an umbrella. She wore a mismatch of prints. A tartan skirt, patterned tights, a yellow arran jumper. I felt I should help her but didn’t know what to say. She didn’t remind me of my grandmother – my grandmother was large, swollen instead of diminished by age – but the tatty jumper, yellow wool unravelling does make me think of her. Her fingers moving the needles, wool wrapped around her little finger, keeping the tension. She never used fancy wool – too expensive – just nylon yarns that didn’t wash well, but she could make anything. She taught me when I was little but it wasn’t until recently that I started to crotchet again, my hands and fingers echoing hers, they remembered her techniques, her lessons better than I could. Her DNA recalled by more than just my blue eyes and sharp temper. The strands of being are much longer than that.
And tomorrow my next novel is published, and she isn’t here to be proud or pinch my cheek.
Next month my latest novel, So the Doves, is published, there will be press and a party and I’ve bought a new dress… all very exciting. And terrifying of course.
I just read Danuta Kean’s piece on Up-Lit in the Guardian, where she’s describing a new trend in literature that shows ‘an appetite for everyday heroism, human connection and love…’ who can blame us for wanting to be reminded that us beings are capable of empathy and kindness at a time when it seems we are rolling around political and environmental horror like spun coins.
So the Doves has it’s fair share of darkness – it’s a psychological thriller after all, about corruption, lies, the media and government – but when I was writing it, I wanted to get away from abjection, away from the helpless female victim, away from unrelenting poverty and lack of ambition. I wanted, and hope I’ve achieved, a sense of hope, hope that loyalty and friendship will win out, that sometimes the poor kid escapes and that maybe, just a tiny bit of redemption is possible, even if not totally assured or easy.
I’m asked this question at every workshop, class or panel discussion I’ve ever given… and it’s a tough one. How do you give advice on something like this when you know nothing about a person’s circumstances? I’ll give it a go here, but would love to hear from you about how you find time to write in between all your other responsibilities.
If you love to write and it’s a part of who you are, then it’s important. It’s essential. So make it part of your ‘self-care’ (I think that phrase is replacing ‘me-time’. Even if only 10 minutes a day, in your lunch break, on your commute, first thing in the morning; sit down and write. Just write. Practice, REGULAR practice, makes perfect. Trust me, a little every day soon mounts up. It’s the habit that makes the difference.
Try your hand at short stories, or even flash fiction, that way you will feel accomplished at finishing a piece (and if anyone tells you that writing short pieces is a cop out tell them to f@#$ off!). You will hone your skills and writing effective, descriptive pieces in few words is a great skill.
Take a class. There are lots of creative writing classes out there, find one that suits your schedule, budget and talents. You’ll get guidance, feedback and support and make new writing friends.
Join (or start) a writers group where you have to commit to submitting work each month and giving and receiving constructive feedback. This can be a great support and impetus to get writing!
It’s not always easy to find the time to write, but it’s important to you so ask for support from those nearest and dearest to you. We need to hear each other’s stories. We need your story. So get writing!