Idle thoughts at the end of 2013

Idle thoughts at the end of 2013

December 2013

Idle thoughts at the closing of the Year

Recently, I went to stay for two weeks in a small fishing village in West Cornwall to dog-sit for a friend. Her house perched high up on the cliff-like hillside. Huge windows brought the views inside so that I perched out over a vast expanse of sea and sky stretching towards the Scilly Isles.

The harbour lay below clustered by cottages, shops and small art galleries. Day and night small fishing boats headed in to port and out towards the horizon. If I woke I could see the lights on the water and hear the chug of engines as they cast their nets into the dark.

At home I live only yards far from the sea. I can watch a fat slice of weather, grey or glittering coming in over the rooftops from my desk at the top of the house. Yet this house set high like a nest in a tree was like a magical third eye on the world.

I woke to sunrise heady and exotic. A band of orange would grow on the horizon, widen and widen until it burst out of ominous black cloud and erupted over an eerie metallic sea. Burst free in a great majestic ball of red that changed the silver path of night on the water to breathtaking glory. Out of these extraordinary, blazing new days little fishing boats emerged as if from a film set or a painting.

The small dog and I would dive out early into each new pink tinged day and follow the coastal path. I looked down on the fishermen far below in that mercurial and endless blue sea emptying their lobster pots along the coastline.

Sometimes, I would meet the same woman walking to feed her horses. Like two passing people on a train who will never meet again we had frank and engaging conversations.  I never asked her name as if somehow this would deter the surprising intimacy we had quickly built up. Both of us recognised and related to the hermit like lifestyle of the other. On a coastal path in the far reaches of west Cornwall I discovered she had lived in Vietnam and I had lived in Pakistan. These journeys to cultures very different from our own had somehow shaped our lives and determined the things we found important. Influenced the choice of where we had happily ended up.

In this two week absence from home I wrote all day blissfully marooned from domestic disturbance. I descended into the pink dusk to the harbour in the late afternoon. I explored the hidden paths and secret alleyways of this small seaside village. I found eccentric ladies gardening happily in near darkness. I chatted to old fishermen sitting on benches with small terriers watching the misty horizon for the same familiar fishing boats to head in.

I loved the late afternoon light most of all; when the sea was tinged a faded purple-grey as delicate as dove feathers. When the rosy dusk I was walking in was rapidly swallowed into darkness. When lights sprang on in the village and harbour and along the stretch of the Lizard peninsular. When gentle waves slid over the pebbles serenely like a meditation to the end of the day. When the smell of fires mingled with the damp air and people scurried hobbit like home to tiny, lighted cottages. In feelings deliciously lonely and joyful I would experience those rare flashes of pure and fleeting happiness.

Writing is necessarily solitary and being alone is addictive. Removing oneself from an insular world with a computer and making time and room to simply observe and be still reaps creative rewards. In the guilt of being away from my desk I sometimes forget the importance of pausing. The need to question life, the way we work, the way we relate to real human beings, rather than the imaginary ones we conjure and nurture.

2014 is going to be a time for many writers to evaluate how to go forward. Publishers who won’t commit are forcing many of us to consider the future of where and how we publish and I am no exception.To embrace the Internet and ‘indie’ publishing is both exciting and alarming.  I keep putting it off. There is so much advice out there. So much pushing your own work, blogging and social networking. You have to ‘be’ a business. Write, edit and sell your own books.  (Unnervingly, there are some seriously poor and unedited books out there as well as good ones)

However, the possibilities are intriguing as well as challenging. The opportunities for young writers starting out is infinite.  It would be foolish to dismiss as too hard a new platform many writers might well have to embrace.

I take heart from the latest edition of The Author. Many, many of us are going through exactly the same reservations and hesitations. Probably, most of us are going to have to jump, or drown…

However, I am submitting my new thriller the traditional way in January, and then we will see…

A New Year is coming up. Let us hope 2014 is going to be a happy and successful one for all of us!


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