The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind – Albert Einstein
Hello world – today I’m back after a month’s social networking break, something I do two or three times a year, when I need to get down to work without the everyday distractions of twitter and facebook. February’s focus has been on activity surrounding my new book Summer of ’76 (out July 2013), so I’ve been busy writing articles, planning events and finally getting round to setting up my quarterly newsletter.
Halfway through the month, a cold knocked the stuffing out of me, but ever one to search for the silver lining, I tried to make the most of my brief setback, by reading – A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness; Wish You Were Here by Graham Swift; Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay; Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell – all highly recommended reads.
Another of my New Year Intentions was to make time to watch more film and drama, and last week I finally managed to get my hands on Mad Men season five. I can’t remember the last time a TV show enthralled me so; perhaps it’s the unfettered glamour of the smoke-swathed, whisky-swilling American sixties, absent of the shackles of today’s technology, when the phones could ring unanswered, with no fear of anyone ever leaving a message . . . How I yearn for the calm of those simpler, quieter days!
Once back on my feet, I was heartened to see signs of spring shooting up all around, despite the weather’s intermittent attempts at snow and sleet. While my daughter and I got stuck into some sewing projects this half term, Colin and our boy got busy in the garden, building bird boxes to woo nesting visitors into the garden. Now, snowdrops seem to be bursting up everywhere, and the birds have returned in abundance – chaffinches, blue tits, blackbirds, robins, doves, dunnocks, longtailed tits, goldfinches, flitting about and feeding beneath the bare branches of the cherry tree.
At last, the house is mine again, and I’m back at my desk where I’ll attempt to get going with my next novel, trying to coax the story from my thoughts and onto the page. It’s a strange old ritual, the same each time I start a new project, usually involving a few failed attempts as I struggle to establish a comfortable writing rhythm. As always, I’ll dance around awhile, avoid looking the story straight in the eye, for fear that it might catch me not writing. I’ll defer committing to paper, while I gaze at the birds beyond my window pane, clear the washing up, check my emails and make myself a coffee. And of course, there’s Charlie-dog who’ll need a good long walk in the Sussex Downs. Eventually, when I’ve built up the courage, and spent enough time alone with my thoughts, I’ll dip my toe in, and with any luck, the words will start to flow . . .