I see that people have been looking at my blog to see if I’ve been writing – and I haven’t. Broadly speaking the ‘pesky dose of shingles’ that I wrote about elsewhere prefigured a bit of a skirmish with ill-health which has now passed. My thoughts are now more in sentences most of the time rather than flitting from one place to another between: past present future work home writing not writing work and generally trying to second guess analyse over analyse situations looks books poems though it was difficult to read for about ten weeks. I couldn’t hold a thought so I erm… read love stories (cringe)! The formulaic type and guaranteed a happy ending.
Listening to Gillian Clarke on BBC this morning, I was reminded sharply of my undergraduate self when I used to keep a quotation of hers (I wish I could find it!) on the wall, and decorated with a green border, a daffodil and a box. It was to do with interruptions while she was writing and the assumption that it was ok to interrupt her writing because it was not viewed as ‘work’ – paid, domestic etc.
It was a quotation I identified with at the time but one that I forgot over the course over the next few years. Writing was not something I admitted to and I well remember my discomfort in the seminar where Tony Brown asked, ‘Who writes?’ I kind of wiggled a finger because mine didn’t seem to be the kind of writing that counted back then.
In his Welsh Writing in English seminars there was a cohort of (mostly male) writers whose cadences and syntax reflected my own and those of where I grew up. They were mostly male because working class women were too busy working, raising a family, completing endless domestic chores, in the battle to keep clean in dusty mining communities. Nevertheless it was like coming home. Enter Gillian Clarke a woman from South Wales, caught between languages in the nineteen thirties, forties and fifties, – Welsh for poverty and rural life and English the language of aspiration, who was a mother AND a successful poet. The interview is available here
Writing, then through studying Welsh Writing in English suddenly became accessible .I well remember – I was just into my thirties then – the feelings of possibility evoked in me. Not about success or fame but the possibility of writing every day and that it was ok to do so. It wasn’t just about scribbling into private journals (link to a guest blog I wrote about journalling) it was shaping and making something new – be that a short story or a poem. It was about possibilities; not just about a ‘Room of One’s Own’ but making time and commitment.
I write most days, be it a scrap of a line or a thought; occasionally, if I’m lucky, a poem. Complete narratives unfold in my head – explode out of an image – and I have to note them down otherwise they are lost. Sometimes that experience is more pleasurable than the slog of writing and planning because no matter how much passion and love go hand in hand with the practice, it is a slog on times. And then the balance between planning and creation. How much is enough? it is easy to get lost on a journey. In one case I’m stuck in rural West Wales; in another, I’m stranded at an airfield (Woodhall Spa) in April 1943 wearing a navigator’s uniform (not a Dam Buster in sight yet) and longing for the hills of home in a flat, fen, wet spring landscape.
It’s about reining in thought, Killing Darlings, as Faulkner and Stephen King and perhaps being more streamlined after the initial explosive burst and recourse to Nathalie Goldberg when stuck. It’s also about a sense of accomplishment when you know something is finished – like knowing when to stop tweaking your hair otherwise you’ll ruin the look. Most of all it’s because inspite of yourself ,you just have to