Here then was my much-needed herald.
Confidence is a fragile thing and sometimes it needs a boost, so publication in the Words and Women anthology (on March 8th International Women’s Day) of my short story The Sitting is timely. Recently I have begun to take greater risks with my short fiction. I have also editing a previous novel that I had been promising myself that I would do for over a year. In the meantime I have also taken to walking regularly.
I have always meant to be a writer that walked regularly. Walking features in the lives of numerous successful authors, they get asked about it in interviews along with other strangely mundane questions about their writing life. Typewriter, computer or pen? used to be a favourite line of questioning, along with what they ate for lunch and how they seek inspiration (as if it is hiding in some nook or cranny waiting to be found). No other working person that I know gets asked about their daily routine in the way that writers and artists do. It clearly holds a fascination, which is mystifying to me. Most creatives of my acquaintance rise at roughly the same time as any other working person and begin there working day between eight and nine. Writing is work and quite tiring, like most work. Where writing differs from some other forms of work is in the need to spend considerable amounts of time reading, re-writing and thinking. Thinking about plot, character motivation and all number of complex interactions that make up a novel.
When I lived in Norwich I went for a brisk walk regularly with an artist friend early in the morning once a week. Once a week is not enough. Every day is about right. I believed that when I was a writer that has a new novel published every eighteen months, then I could justify taking the time each day to walk. This is arrant nonsense, but it is the sort of excuse one can make to oneself. For me there are always legion things that I could or should do. So walking, which can seem like a bit of an indulgence, is easy to put off, even though I actually enjoy the process of putting one foot in front of the other and going outside.
Over the years I have walked with other friends but these walks did not go as well, they were both slow walkers and brisk is what my health and wellbeing require. So now I walk alone around my new country idyll. It’s interesting, because I am completely unfamiliar with the landscape. Recently one walk was curtailed by my reaching the high fence and barbed wire that confines a Ministry of Defence restricted area. Spooky things go on there in the dead of night and no one is supposed to know about them, although most of the villagers do. Today I walked up the road and off to the left down what looked like a path. I thought I might be trespassing and there were guns going off not far away and then I came to a sign marking a bridleway and a map showing the species in a newly planted copse. We have had fog and watery sunlight almost breaking through and the landscape has that dormant feel about it, the colours are browns, greys and dusty blues. The seed heads in the brambles are brittle and parched by frosts, when they’re not sodden with rain. The sun has hardly made its presence felt today. The rhythm of walking at a pace is conducive to thinking about words and stories and snatches of text. Walking is also addictive. The regularity of it is compulsive, when I wake up in the morning if it’s raining, I check the forecast to see when I can walk, or if I can walk. Since my accident I don’t walk on ice or snow, and I am not heavy rain holds no appeal, given that you can’t really see anything. But so far this year I have managed to walk regularly, despite the weather. I decided that the changes to my lifestyle are to be small, significant and permanent if they are to work. Walking seems to have so many plus points that I wouldn't want to give it up. I am quite put out if I can’t fit an hour in. It has always been good for the writer or creative to walk and to think. Thinking, when your body is doing something physical happens so naturally that one is barely aware of it. I recommend it; all manner of things get sorted out when walking.