Where do you find your inspiration to write? Does an idea just pop into your head or do you go searching for that ‘nugget of gold’?
This summer we visited several islands and from each one I experienced something different to inspire my writing life:
- Value the Skills of the Author
- The Importance of Finishing Unfinished but Treasured Projects
- Living in the Here and Now
- Facing the Past
Sifnos ~ The Healing Sun, Warmth and Azure Skies
I can’t say that I am now inspired to rush and write a novel set on Sifnos, but it was that overall calmness of the mind, following Covid and bereavement, that will live with me throughout the coming months. I defy anyone not to be inspired, surrounded as we were, by such stunning views and soaking up the sunshine and warmth for the first major holiday in three years.
Tinos ~ To Value the Master Carver and To Value the Skills of an Author
We only had two trips out ~ one to be dropped off at the top of the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views, an ice-cream and to wander down the winding path back to the bay. The path was an amazing feat of engineering from between the world wars. Although I am sometimes scared of heights (why do I live in Scotland you may ask?), the path was wide enough so that I could breath easily. The men who built it were truly inspiring and I’m sure there are stories to tell of those times.
The second trip out was to visit the lovely village of Pyrgos, where carving in marble, a treasure still mined on Tinos, could be observed in awe.
I spoke to one of the craftsman and asked him how much one of the small seahorses on the wall cost. 45 euros was his reply and then he showed me a block of rock from which he would carve another, the template and one partially carved. ‘Do you know how many hours one of these takes to make?’ he asked.
I had no idea.
‘About 80 hours,’ he said.
Wow, I thought and then I compared it to my craft of writing a novel.
- Loosely planning ideas, beginning, middle and end
- Several months to write the first draft
- A couple of months for edits, beta readers and revisions.
- Working with an editor until the manuscript is ready for publication.
Typically that’s at least six months.
Does the reader appreciate this hard graft?
Would I have appreciated the carver if I hadn’t watched him at work? If I had bought that seahorse in a gift shop?
I gained much inspiration from Tinos; a beautiful island. I relaxed and felt ready to face the world again, but the greatest lesson I learnt was to value the work I do and to feel proud of it, as the master carver I met certainly does.
Iona ~ Inspired to Complete Unfinished but Treasure Projects
Like Tinos and Sifnos, the beauty of Iona could not help but stir my emotions and inspire me to describe the world around me in a deeper way. I was reminded of the social issues which drove me to write ‘MISSING, Past and Present’; homelessness, racial tension and injustice, and yet I have always been driven by the dichotomy of these issues – the positive relationships between refugee and foster carer, discovering mindfulness whilst wandering the lanes without a permanent home and racist attitudes that can just slip in unawares.
Above all, Iona made me think about the direction my writing would go in. So many projects begun but unfinished, mainly due to the events of the last two years. I have a glimmer of a direction now ~ watch this space …
Iona will always be close to my heart – a place where
‘the air between this world and the next is thin.’ ~ St Columba
Isle of May ~ Living in the Here and Now
The Isle of May as a place of pilgrimage has always inspired me; its location at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, en-route between Lindisfarne and St Andrews. One day, I believe, my writing will take on the direction of a pilgrimage in days gone by, just as it did in The Healing Paths of Fife; a personal fantasy memoir and pilgrimage, describing when we first relocated from Bedfordshire to Fife, including ‘meeting and talking with famous folks along the way. The lives of saints, whose unusual names have also intrigued me since moving to Scotland; St Mungo for example, sounds like a perfect subject for fact/fiction. His name crops up in so many places we have visited and his birth is a legend in these parts.
Meanwhile, I am still searching for the direction my writing journey should take in the here and now; but I do believe I’m edging closer to feeling at peace in knowing the way I should take next. One task I must do is to update The Healing Paths of Fife to the current day. Not an easy task, but a cathartic one nevertheless.
Alderney ~ My Original Inspiration and Facing the Past
Alderney was my initial inspiration to write, as was the story of my Great Grandmother Harriet. Walking where she walked and seeing houses and streets much as she would have seen them, with the cobbles and Georgian buildings, as well as the tiny stone cottages down at Newtown, I became aware of her footsteps beside me and a whisper of encouragement in my ear. Alderney became a character in my debut novel, Riduna. (First published by Pegasus in 2009 and relaunched by Eventispress on 2012)
This was added to by a visit to Alderney Museum this summer where Guilia, who is in charge of research, spent a couple of hours with me, talking through my projects. She was interested in what I knew of my family history and attempted to untangle fact from imagination, as my talk of my novels wove in and out of Harriet’s true story. (In a nutshell, she lost her parents and was sent to Guernsey) Armed with several books to bring home, I was tasked with sending her our family tree as we know it, with documental proof wherever possible.
I felt quite light headed as we headed back down to our hotel although I wasn’t so sad when we took off the next day, because I knew we would return soon.
Since arriving home I’ve braced myself to delve into my parent’s family history files, untouched since they passed away; A treasure box of memories, notes, letters and photos.
I’m also inspired to work on Dad’s novella, a prequel to Riduna, in the knowledge that there are experts at hand who will take my work seriously and read the manuscript with a critical eye on its authenticity.
I had reached out and I feel that folks are reaching back over the sea to meet me half way.
It is a wonderful feeling!
Guernsey and Jersey ~Being Thankful for Their Inspiration
From Alderney we travelled on to Guernsey and Jersey. It was frustrating that we could not take ferries but had to fly, although we enjoyed the 15 minute trip to Guernsey.
Guernsey is almost as important in Riduna as Alderney. It was where Harriet was shipped when she became too much for her grandparents to handle at 15 years old, exiled from her island home. It was also where Harriet (my Great Grandmother Harriet) met and married her husband.
We only had a few hours on the island before the 15 minutes flight to Jersey. A storm was brewing. The sky was black. Lightning flashed across the sky. I gripped the arms of my seat as the little plane rose, fell and jerked akin to the Space Mountain ride at Disney! My thoughts flitted by, ‘Was this the end of my life’s journey?’ ‘I still have so much to accomplish.’
Thankfully we landed safely.
We spent a day and a night on Jersey around St Helier. (I apologize to Heidi and also to other writing friends who might be reading this and live on Jersey, that I did not contact you, but it was only one day)
Jersey was my inspiration for MURDER, Now and Then; a Jersey lass in the QMAAC (Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps) who was murdered in Haynes Bedfordshire in 1919. I had a wonderful holiday on this beautiful island researching for the book back in 2012, as well as many visits as a child.
Yes, these Channel Islands have played a huge part in my writing life and I am thankful!