It’s Monday 22nd February 2021 and in my part of the world we have been living under some form of restriction, either local or national, since 23rd March 2020. Currently we have been in full lockdown since Christmas and it looks like there will be at least two more weeks before anything is relaxed.
Now, I’m not complaining. I am so fortunate. I have space and family and enough to eat. To that extent, my lockdown has been very easy. My struggles with it relate to my life as a writer.
THis is a random photo . . .
chosen to reflect pre-pandemic life, a time when we were free to wander, not just around our own countries but others too. It’s a joy, obviously, to be able to explore new places, absorb the sounds around you, listen to voices that you don’t know speaking words you don’t recognise. There are colours and smells and textures that are all new. Often we absorb them as a whole, giving an impression of a new place but sometimes it is the tiny things that we notice and find the most intriguing. Why is that door there, what is behind it, who calls this street home?
The questions that your mind asks are almost endless when things are new and unfamiliar.
And this is my stock in trade. Listening, watching, questioning, wondering. This is what I do every time I leave my house and sometimes one of the questions that I ask myself will stick around and gradually build itself into an idea which, if I’m lucky, becomes big enough to turn into a book.
A couple of months into this pandemic . . .
I started to get bored. I was busy enough. I was editing the book that will be released in April and writing the one after that. All four of my children were at home so I was enjoying having them here, planning meals and activities to keep everyone happy and it was one of the most beautiful Springs I can remember so I was spending a lot of time walking in the beautiful countryside around my home. There were lots of sheep photos taken!
But I was bored.
I mentioned to one or two people how I was feeling and they looked at me as if there was something wrong with me. The initial fear of the pandemic had worn off and we were all being forced to stay at home in the glorious sunshine. It was like an extended holiday with everyone having time to do all those projects that they never usually got round to. If I was bored then that must surely mean that there was something wrong with me.
‘Oh, I”m never bored,’ they said smugly. ‘There’s so much to do!’
Well, I wasn’t sure short of things to do either so I pressed on.
And then finally, around month five, I worked out what it was that was wrong. I had simply chosen the wrong word to describe how I felt. I wasn’t bored. I was under-stimulated!
The artist’s way
by Julia Cameron is a book that many creatives swear by. I’ve read it and as with all books there were a couple of ideas that I took away with me. The main one is the need to fill your creative well. In the book, Cameron suggests that unless you put inspiring things into your brain you can’t expect inspiring creativity to come out of it.
And here was my problem. Yes, I could read endlessly and watch Netflix and follow links on Twitter and explore places on Google Earth and all that has its place. But it turns out that none of it is any substitute for the real thing, for actually touching and seeing and hearing and smelling things for yourself. So, when I said that I was bored, what I really meant was that my world and my experience of it had become two dimensional and that was no long enough to stimulate my creativity.
Having finally worked this out . . .
I felt a sense of relief that I wasn’t actually as dull as the smug, non-bored people had made me feel. I’ve thought about a lot since then and have decided that I need train journeys and exhibitions and new cities and conversations with people that I don’t know to allow me to question and think.
Without these things, my imagination has been ring-fenced by my own life experience and by the echo chamber that it creates. And this is not a good place for a writer.
I don’t know how much longer I will have to stay here but I am drawing up a list of all the things that I want to do when I can leave so that I can refill my depleted creative well which will hopefully then gush forth with new ideas which I can turn into stories. It’s a very long list!
So how about you? What will you do first when you can? Please let me know. I’d love to hear.