Even the longest journey must begin with a single step, they say, but… what if when you start off, you’re headed in the wrong direction?
Trawling through some photos recently, I came across this –
– the suede-bound notebook, with its thick, creamy pages and golden decoration was purchased in Florence the previous year. Back then, full of excitement, I’d wanted a special book to fill with notes and ideas for my new story. Visiting Michelangelo’s tomb in the church of Santa Croce, I read somewhere that, in carving David, he felt he’d been simply ‘freeing the angel from the marble.’ I knew what he meant. It felt to me from the beginning that my story too, was already there. Waiting for me to write it. Somehow though, despite my head being full of what I wanted to write – the essence of it, at least – the actual story had refused to come through.
It perplexed me.
Here was I, raring to go, and there was this great idea humming in my head but I somehow couldn’t land it. Putting the special notebook aside, I came home and filled whole exercise books with copious notes. I tried for months! I spent a lot of time pursuing other activities too. I’d leave it be for weeks, months even and come back to it periodically but still, despite writing many tens of thousands of words over that time, I knew that there was some ineffable ingredient missing in the mix; something that I hadn’t quite crystallised yet. I knew it was missing, that it had to be there; that it had been there for all the others… but… what was it?
I began to wonder if I’d stumbled into the dreaded ‘writer’s block,’ but then, how could that be so? I was penning many short stories for women’s magazines during the year when I couldn’t write this book, so why was this particular story proving so hard to massage into life? I wanted to walk away from it so many times, but it wouldn’t let me be. And I felt inexplicably stuck. Unable to move on with it and also unable to let go.
In the end, after a good year-and-a-bit of what felt – in terms of my novel at least – like faffing around, I chanced upon an editor who finally (and very graciously – thank you Kate!) helped me unlock the doors to this elusive story. She suggested a better place to begin, for one. It turns out, among other things, that I’d been starting the story in the wrong place.
Which brings me to the beginning of this piece.
Had I been wasting my time then, going around in circles? It felt like it at the time, but I doubt that’s true. The journey of a thousand miles may lead you to a destination only three doors down from you and maybe sometimes that’s exactly where your quest will end? Because the thing is; how can we know what we don’t know till we eventually do know it? So no, I don’t think all those months were wasted: it simply took that long for me to know which direction I needed to be going in!
On a sunny morning when my garden was filled with the glorious scent of jasmine, I took another notebook out into the garden and started the novel all over again.
I’m delighted to say that – eight months later – I’ve now typed The End. First draft done, at least.
Now a new journey – to get it out there to you, my readers, beckons ahead…
Wish me Bon voyage!