It’s not a secret that the past year has not been kind to my writing. Yes, successive lockdowns have kept us at home and you would have thought that writers would be having their most productive year so far. But things do not work like that. Not at all.
As a writer, I need a clear, uncluttered mind deprived of external worries and anxieties. I am an indie writer and publisher, which means that I do not get advances and I pay for everything (websites, printing of books, promotion, market stalls, etc.)
It comes as no surprise that the past year has brought many obstacles and upheavals into our lives, and this has brutally disrupted my creative process. Back in January, I had made an important decision about my professional life and just as lockdown came into effect, I had just found the perfect balance and was looking forward to an exciting and productive spring and summer season full of events, explorations and projects. Everything came crashing down.
Still, with a lot of will power, I managed to make some kind of progress on The Right Place here and there over the summer months. But oh, how excruciatingly slow it all was!
Being stuck in the house and restricted to our local area on Portland hasn’t been ideal either: I moved to Dorset four years ago in order to write books inspired by the landscape, atmosphere and history of the county. Not being able to actually explore the hills and paths of deepest Dorset and soak up the atmosphere of the county’s countryside has really made writing difficult. Many times, I have felt defeated and unable to carry on with the book. Was it something worth pursuing anyway? After all, did it really matter?
I am still fighting every day to convince myself that completing the book and getting it publish is worth it. I have plans for at least two other novels, hopefully more, and writing novels is indeed my favourite job in the whole world. But, if I am being honest, spending hours writing books doesn’t pay the bills…
So I have plans for later in the year, including starting a “proper” online shop for my published books and also for the pre-loved, vintage and rare books I have to sell, but the development of this project will depend on what’s happening with the day job. So everything is up in the air.
Still, shops deemed “non-essential” are reopening next week – and that includes our unit at The Customs House in West Bay, and there is a glimpse of hope for a few events to go ahead over the summer… More on that nearer the time!
The good news though is that we now can start exploring the Dorset countryside again, and it feels marvellous!
Yesterday, we headed to a place which I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, the area beyond Eggardon Hill around West Milton and Powerstock.
Now, if you read this blog regularly (?), you'd know that I love a good holloway (here's an excellent blog by The Dorset Rambler about holloways) as much as the writers Geoffrey Household (author of Rogue Male) and Robert Mcfarlane. The holloway which will feature in my fourth novel is Hell Lane in Symondsbury near Bridport.
Yesterday, we walked along another sunken path, the hollow lane which travels north from West Milton. According to Louise Hodgson's Secret Places of West Dorset, this particular holloway is haunted by a funeral cortege "said to wind its ghastly way along this age-old track, lighting the track with sepulchral glow, seen only by night creatures."
We didn't encounter any ghostly funeral cortege but did have to stand aside in the narrow lane to let a noisy group of scrambler bikes pass (completely spoiling the utter peacefulness of the area).
This really is the deep Dorset countryside: an ancient, atmospheric, unique place with lush greenery and unspoilt villages. The landscape does possess the edge of a pre-Christian world and the otherworldly beauty of some kind of fantastical kingdom. I was looking for an escape from the pandemic and this walk definitely did the trick.
I think therefore I write.
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