There has been something incredibly satisfying about working on a novel over the past couple of weeks that draws its inspiration from the town I now call home.
I’ve been here five years, but the first two novels that I wrote at my desk overlooking the sea were based on a very different life. Their plots and characters were woven from memories which, as memories do, have faded as my distance from them increases, and whilst there is nothing wrong with seeking inspiration from the past I have found my present a much richer source of detail.
It’s kind of ironic, really, given that this third novel is historical, playing out its story between the 1970s and the dawn of the new millennium, and thus further away temporally than each of the others. The world I have created within it is not the same as the one I live in now, but that has not stopped my senses seeking out the experiences it needs to strengthen its authenticity.
Going back to edit the draft, its stifling seventies’ summers conjured in the winter months, I brought to bear another layer of experience from the summer just passed. My love affair with life by the sea has inevitably found its way onto its pages, and I believe that it is an altogether better novel for it.
There is something in that journey that feels good for my soul, too. To be living and breathing the words that I write rather than tearing myself between my current reality and another, far removed, that I am trying to make true.
This past week’s writing, now that I have submitted that draft to my agent, has focused in even more on the experiences that define me now. When I am not trying to carve out this niche for myself as a writer, a large amount of my remaining energies go into my local lido – both in swimming whenever I get the chance and in working to help run it, restore it and preserve it for years to come.
On Saturday I took part in a fundraising challenge, swimming thirty lengths alongside other lovers of its watery charms. As I swam my 1500 metres, a longer distance than I’ve attempted in many years, my mind worked on a story I’ve been developing to answer a call for submissions for new writing from lido lovers. I finished writing the first draft of that on the beach yesterday afternoon, and after a few hours of polishing emailed it off this morning.
I can’t guarantee that my next wave of inspiration will come from the water that surrounds me here – and in fact it would be an impoverished body of work that was too insular in its outlook – but I think perhaps I needed grounding, and it feels like these projects have achieved just that.
It will be interesting to see where they take me next…