Tag Archives: listening

Seeking inspiration

Having successfully got a lot of my antsiness out of my system last week, I have found myself since embracing the space left in my days by not currently having any writing or editing to work on. I still have milling around in the back of my brain the intention to write some short stories, but before I do I am going to enjoy gathering some inspiration.

I’d forgotten, actually, how pleasant this phase in the whole writing cycle can be.

Instead of focusing inwards on the worlds laying down roots inside my head it is a time to reach out, into the ‘real’ world and the imaginations of others, and build up my bank of ideas. It is a time to listen, and to breathe; to watch, and to consider. It is a time to learn, consciously and hungrily.

Autumn feels a particularly apt time to be doing this. It is as if I am gathering food for the winter ahead, squirrelling away supplies in my den whilst the ground is still soft enough to break through. I am looking forward, too, to the moment when I can light the fire and curl up in the darkness to nourish my creativity with the embers of my explorations, but I have no fixed intentions yet.

Lots of this preparation has involved reading. I’ve read two whole novels this week – more than I’ve managed in the past couple of months, embarrassingly!

The first is one I’ve been eagerly anticipating for months, Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith. It didn’t disappoint: I loved the dystopian premise that was woven through it, found the characters flawed to just the right degree and relished the startlingly accurate depictions of motherhood (even if the context itself was highly unconventional!) It is inspiring on so many levels to read a novel written by one of my blogging friends and to love it as much as I did, and it has made me curious to read more from Mother’s Milk Books, the independent publishers who put it out into the world.

The second novel was one I picked up at the airport in Boston in January and had never found the time to read. How to Start a Fire tells the story of three friends as they grow from college students into middle aged women, weaving a complex web of misdemeanours and mistakes along the way. I think I was initially drawn to it because of the promise of strong female characters: they were brilliantly drawn, and the fractured narrative was compelling. I appreciated too the sensitive exploration of mental health issues, something which I am discovering is a recurrent theme in my own writing.

There is also a non-fiction book that I’ve been dipping into, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, which through its particular philosophies is giving me a new lens through which to look at life and the ways we make it mean something.


Outside of books, I have found myself watching the world intently.

Generally I have been tuning into other peoples’ conversations far more than I probably should, guiltily seeking treasure like a magpie that I can take back and hide away in my nest.

I was moved almost to tears by a family I observed on a bus the other day, and found myself scribbling down their narrative – what I’d seen and what I imagined was behind it – at the earliest opportunity.

The experience reminded me of a blog post that has been ringing in my ears since I read it, a scathing analysis of modern Britain by the brilliant Cash Carraway. I have often found myself paralysed by anxiety in recent months fuelled by a complete disbelief at the mess our society seems to be descending into, but this post reminded me that I could use that anxiety, and the anger that inevitably follows.

I’m still not sure how yet, or in fact where any of this will take me. But for now I am savouring the time I have until, from the spoils of all my scavenging, inspiration strikes.


Writing Bubble

Listening to the world


I’ve written before about how taking a leaf out of Arthur’s book really helps me as a writer – seeing things around me through fresh eyes, finding new perspectives and stories in the everyday. This is especially true about the stage I’m at with my third novel at the moment. It’s just beginning, there are ideas and possibilities floating around all over the place, and it’s my job to be open to them, to gather them together so I can begin to weave them into a plot.

A huge swathe of inspiration is already inside my head. My main characters set up camp in there a while ago and, it seems, have been getting to know themselves and each other whilst I’ve been busy doing other things. The girl – I don’t know her name yet – spoke to me the other night. It was about two in the morning, and she said:

I knew it was wrong, even then. Of course when I say ‘wrong’ I mean ‘considered inappropriate’. But it all is when you’re a teenager, isn’t it? Everything you breathe or think or do. So that really didn’t help me calibrate my moral compass.

I’ve finally downloaded Evernote on to my phone so her words are safely stashed away on there. Along with a photo of a bench, and a growing collection of images which capture  Brixham forty years ago.

The girl popped into my head again as I was thinking about Sara’s prompt of Smoke. She led me to a longer piece of writing then, one which taught me a surprising amount about her (and him).

I think this might be a key part of my method this time round: just writing the scenes that come into my head, before I even work the ideas into a coherent plan. These scenes might make it into the finished story, or they might not – but I love the idea of listening a little bit more closely to what my characters have to offer before trying to pigeonhole them.

The other place I’m looking for inspiration is in the past. Much of the story unfolds in the late 1970s/early 1980s. I was born in 1978, but it’s not a period I know an awful lot about and I’m finding it fascinating discovering more. My primary reference point at the moment is Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s by Alwyn W. Turner, and even in the opening chapters I’ve already found some historical gems which sit perfectly alongside the story that’s beginning to emerge.

And then there’s my town. It’s actually really lovely to be mulling over a tale which belongs here after the first two novels which are very firmly rooted in London. It means that every stroll or errand or minute spent gazing out of the window becomes an integral part of my research. I’m planning to formalise that soon, reaching out to local people who might be able to add to what I know of Brixham – particularly its past.

But for now I’m very happy listening to the world, both inside and outside my head, and I can’t wait to see where else it takes me.


Muddled Manuscript