Oh so where do I start? It was an unexpected but very welcome text from a friend with an invitation to go to a literary festival. I had no plans. I like books. It’s fun to spend time with friends. However, it ended up being way more than that; it was inspiring.
I picked this photo to write about some weeks ago. I’ve always loved this photo for its composition and the memory of the peaceful quiet and diffused light from the snow on the side of Mount Vitosha in Bulgaria. After the events of last week, it feels particularly apt.
It’s been seven years this month since I moved to London from my little (cheap) studio apartment in Pittsburgh. It’s an anniversary that is getting scarily close to double digits. I found a photo I took on Waterloo bridge, about a year after I moved, and I feel a very strange sensation.
While chatting to a friend and fellow aspiring novelist, she obviously asked me how the writing is going. I answered “I’m theoretically working on it.” It was a vague and slightly lazy answer in which I admit a certain level of procrastination and also acceptance that for me, writing is 80% thinking about it and 20% putting words onto the page.
I was sitting in the back of my parents car on my way home from college for some holiday or another. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and have seen more fields and farmhouses in all kinds of weather than I could count. One of the more memorable times involved watching grey-green clouds slowly swirl and rotate in the sky above my school bus, listening to the roar of thunder and the bus’ engine speeding up to get out of the storm. For some reason on that day, the scene outside the window struck me as particularly beautiful. It struck me as a moment worth digging my camera out of the bottom of my backpack filled with mostly unopened chemistry text books. It struck me as a scene worth, nearly 10 years later, to still have on my hard drive. Maybe at the time, it was all the changes going on; the moving away, my utter disinterest in what I thought for years I wanted to study that prompted me to capture a moment. Maybe I sensed this scene is very different to where I would end up. Maybe it was just the aesthetic factors: the brilliant white snow, the red barn glowing in the pastel winter light or an accidental yet pleasing composition.
So, I wrote a novel in November, taking part in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. And now what? Well, I’m editing and writing more. The basic plot line is about a lady who aspired to the life you’re ‘supposed’ to have – career, marriage, 2.5 kids, but it didn’t turn out that way. She is now struggling to redefine herself and her life. With some time off, she plans a holiday but is side tracked by some graffiti. She sets out to find whoever is writing”Lager” and “Pie” all over London, but ends up rediscovering herself. It has become a bit of a monster with the addition of new (yet to be written) story lines. One will be about another lady, who appears to have it all, but is so bored with her life she wishes a terrorist attack would happen just to spice things up and one will be about a fictional (to me and to the story) graffiti artist.
It’s not perfect yet, but here’s a sneak preview.
So, I took a break for a bit. Some might ask a break from what? I have really only just started writing this little bit of the ‘blogosphere’. The part of me that feels a need to justify myself would say I took some time out to re-prioritise. The honest part of me admits this was a bit of an excuse, but a useful one nonetheless. The organised, driven part of me knows from NaNoWriMo 2015 that sharing goals creates a structure to achieve what I’d like to or to get closer. It creates accountability. Hopefully, and most importantly, sharing my goals will help me to create.
3 days early, 27 days of writing, a very sore hand (just one for some reason), over 50,000 words and my first NaNoWriMo is done. I’m a winner, for the first time since I was 4 and beat 3 boys to win a tricycle in K-mart. This was my one and only athletic achievement, which, like Nano, proves with enough motivation (a tricycle or a word count) you can achieve more than you think.
Walking from the Giralda in Seville to the old Alcazar palace, it is hot. My body isn’t used to the heat after the grey, mild London summer. The summer that felt tropical after the months of unusual snow and usual sleet and hail, the summer after we got married. The summer I decided I will never work events and a pay check doesn’t compensate for some things. The summer that went too quickly in a fast-tracked, winding path of stress and questions and self-doubt despite my best intentions.
“Temple? Go to temple? Science centre?”
“No, no thank you.” We wanted to see the remnants of the Empire. We wanted to see what was left of the chequered past of the colonialists and we had seen plenty of religious architecture after 9 days. Some were unassuming buildings with giant statues of the Buddha, some had massive brick towers and imposing steps echoing the beckoning call to prayer, some had brightly painted elephants and bells and flags. One was set to a backdrop of the Himalaya. Although each one was amazing, I wanted to see ghosts.