I’ve lamented on this blog before the sheer yet absolutely essential isolation of the writing life. I think it does boil down very simply to sitting alone, in a room, at a desk. You occasionally hear of people writing in bed or only ever on public transport or sitting in their toll booth on the night shift, but really they are the exceptions rather than the rule (and in most cases, I am quite, quite sure that’s no accident). Most of us need a chair and a desk and a computer and a door to close calmly but firmly on the rest of the world.
Be that as it may, it’s excruciatingly lonely sometimes. I love having people around, I really appreciate being in a collegiate environment. “Like-minded” is an expression I absolutely can’t stand, I hate it, because it’s immediately exclusionary in its very structure, and quite frankly I love other-mindedness much more than I enjoy surrounding myself with people who think just like me (actually, that’s a pretty terrifying thought. It sounds like one of those old school Twilight Zone episodes). And it’s other-mindedness we’re rolling around in up here like happy little pigs in swill.
Outside, the rain is falling in sheets. The occasional irate-sounding bird passes (it does make one so cross to be caught in a downpour), and through the mist the bending trees look like an advancing army. I can see someone’s washing hanging on the Hill’s hoist of the neighbouring property; it won’t be coming in today. My room feels lovely. Perfectly safe and dry and warm and still light, though it feels like I am about to be plunged into darkness as this deluge intensifies across the mountains. The sky is a whiteout. Right now, this place feels like home.
We had an incredible night together last night, we five writing women. We are all story-tellers, I suppose, so perhaps it’s not so very surprising we spent the evening telling each other our own stories. There was a lot of laughing and I don’t know that anyone got away without tears. I liked everyone before, but now I’m sort of awed by them. But not awed in a remote way, it actually feels right up front and accessible, and might be simply respect. It’s one thing to enjoy someone’s writing and recognise they have ability and dedication, but it’s something quite different to see something of the person behind the pen and start to understand what drives the hand across the page or screen. I’ll remember last night always.
And it wasn’t only last night that was good; I ran into two of the girls up in the village yesterday during a little coffee break (a booze run by any other name is still, let’s face it, a booze run). We sat down at the old Paragon cafe over coffees and broke our manuscripts apart with a minimum of fuss. It doesn’t help to be fussy, I’ve found. It helps to be honest. I know the problems I have at the beginning, so why pretend? Anyway, one of the girls had an excellent idea I’ll be taking up today, and said “We need to see Eleanor having fun.” It’s exactly that element that’s been missing from the opening section. And I don’t mean having fun like suddenly skipping through sprinklers and dancing on cars (cue Tampax commercial), I mean the fun in the language. For the rest of the book, there’s a lot of fun in the language. So I came back here and went into a bit of a frenzy for the hour before our workshop with Peter. I could feel it enlivening, just as when you start blowing into a balloon and it stiffens with that first proper gust. And how appropriate, too, because when I read it out to them last night, it felt like the lead balloon was slowly starting to unchain itself, and perhaps if I’m lucky and work hard enough, it might break free and drift toward the sky. Ah, that’s a very nice thought. And my very real challenge. But what a night (thanks, girls – and Happy Birthday, Catherine!).