The storms that blew out the old year abate as the year turns and the new year creeps in through a veil of gloom. The day is sunk in a quagmire of mizzle. Cormorants line the breakwater like mourning sentinels and the lighthouse beacon struggles to breach the murk. On the beaches at the mouth of the river, a broken forest has rooted. Whole trees, enormous logs, pieces of furniture and other oddments swept down-river in the storms have come to rest here. It isn’t long before the beach-combers arrive, picking through the piles for treasures.
I’ve been on a journey. In the dreaming tide of the year, as the world descended into darkness, I dreamed a new world into being. Sequestered from the golden drift of the leaves and the filigree of stripped branches, the real world receded. Everywhere I went, I carried a notebook and a pen with turquoise ink, like talismans. Words spilled out, without thought, without preparation: a storm of words.
I was visited by an apparition: a teenage me at my aunt’s house in the country, scribbling stories in a blue exercise book about a woman who saw lights in the fields at night. Back then, I loved writing. There was no agenda. I didn’t have a computer. I wrote everything longhand and didn’t imagine I would ever have something published. Over time, that naïve joy dissipated as I strove to achieve something with my writing. As I fulfilled some of my goals, it became less like joy and more like work. Last year creativity was a battle and my novel in progress was one of its casualties.
But during my Arvon week at Lumb Bank, something was re-kindled amid hills swathed in mist. Afterwards, things seemed to shift. I kept asking myself the questions my tutors Emylia Hall and Patrick Neate asked me: Which part of this book am I enjoying writing the most? Why do I write? How do I want my writing to be viewed? I was energised by Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the art of writing, in which his delight in writing is infectious and who told me to write, not think. I thought of Tash Aw, guest author at Arvon, who said he writes every one of his huge books longhand. And suddenly, I took up notebook and pen and soared.
When things got tough, my mantra was this: ‘It’s okay, at this point I’m just telling myself the story. It doesn’t have to be great, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, I’m just telling it to me.’ And there was that teenage girl scribbling in her blue notebook, reminding me how writing used to be. Two months on, I’d finished my first draft of 80,000 words.
I’ve been on a journey, a journey back to writing, back to the writer I once was. I found peace in the scratch of ink on paper and joy in the conjuring of a world. This is the magic of writing. And as the honing tide sweeps in, it’s time for a little word-combing, sifting through the leavings of the storm until I find the treasures.
My short story, Lightning Flowers, the tale of a woman whose life changes when she’s struck by lightning, was published in Issue 5 of Firewords Quarterly in October. You can buy a copy at http://www.firewords.co.uk/shop/issue5/