Life, The Universe and Everything…
Reading back over early posts written sometime between 2010 and 2014, I was struck by the way I used to be able to write about writing, about writers AND also write books. All at the same time.
These days, I can barely keep one ball in the air, let alone three and I wondered what the difference might be. What has happened since 2014 that makes me so much less of an acrobat?
- Husband left his long-time career in the media and retired to become a full-time farmer and media consultant. Why should that affect me? Well, he’s in the house a lot, we talk, have cups of tea, he eats a lot more of my cakes and slices and I have to cook more. We also like doing things together – picnics, days away etc.
- My mother died and we were caught in the web of finalising her estate. It took about two years, off and on, but it plays with one’s concentration and thus one’s time.
- Husband and self sold our family home in the city and bought a small townhouse for when we are city-bound. It required renovation (In fact, every time I enter my laundry, I stroke the cupboards and say ‘My early novels paid for that…’ 😉 ) It also required a whole new (miniature) garden. Enter HUGE diversion. I became even more of a gardener than I was previously.
- My husband developed prostate cancer and that sucked the life from us for a long time after surgery interstate. Beastly disease.
- My daughter moved to another city. We would visit. Two or three days each time.
- I developed an obscure vestibular condition. Rehab is ongoing to make sure I stay upright, but it too, takes time.
- My son got married. So? How could that divert me? It didn’t, until he and his wife had a little son and then there was the hugest diversion EVER! Now, of course, eighteen months later, we care for the child on Wednesdays, so that’s a whole day out of my calendar. But I wouldn’t swap that time for all the chapters in the world.
- Then there’s the little things that ageing seems to pile on both husband and self: eye operations, gall-bladder operations, sepsis and the biggest doozy of all, my husband’s farm-ATV accident which was the inspiration for that elusive contemporary novel, Passage. Things which make one realise that life must be lived before it is taken away for good.
Thus, here’s the really interesting thing.
Every single one of those experiences were ‘life’ experiences and stocked up the shelves of my little brain. It may still take me a year to write and publish a novel, but you can be sure I will have drawn on deep emotion and experience – even for historical fiction.
There are always other experiences that are dusted off periodically (archery, horse-riding, dagger throwing, wearing a long gown, walking through mud in clogs, sailing, baking bread, making a pottage… even feeling the cold hand of someone who has died) and which can help to round out a historical fiction character, but my most favourite characters in others’ writings are those with a heart and who feel from deep down in their very soul. THOSE writers are mindful of the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything, and their novels sing with it.
At the moment I’m finishing the last of Toby Clements’ Winter Pilgrim series. Now there is a writer with soul.
Matthew Harffy is another.
It’s a huge strength on which to draw when writing and if I look back at Life, The Universe and Everything, I can see that every single experience helps me to write with depth and perception. Right now in my WIP, I have an elderly nun who is afraid of her 12th century world but who may be a lot stronger than she can imagine, and a man-at-arms who has suffered from his time in the 3rd Crusade and whose Faith has been tested and found wanting. In addition, there are babes to be born, relics to be found, fights to the death and a narrative to be chased from Esteil through to Lyon and back to Esteil.
Whilst I don’t fancy too many more dramatic changes in my life, I’m truly glad to have the experience of previous events on which to draw. Even small ones…
There! The sigh of a cool seabreeze, the whisper of leaves twitching and the feel of the breeze as it blows through the window. Over the hairs on my arms, lifting them, goosebumps rattling to my elbows…
PS: If you’re really into Douglas Adams and the meaning of Life, The Universe and Everything, you might enjoy this blogpost I found today.
Oh Prue, the distractions of real life are so full on at times, that I wonder if I will ever get back into the right headspace to finish the first draft of the current book, let alone revisit the unfinished works, or edit the ones that need to be given a good shake up before being released. And yes those life experiences do creep in.
Like you grandchildren are a joy not to be missed. I currently have my nearly 6 year old staying for the week. Exhausting in the best possible way. My other two grandchildren live next door, so see them often, and what a joy it is to see them as they grow.
If it ever stops raining, then the garden will be calling….
I think that every distraction is an experience and every experience is fair game for novels, Caro, no matter the genre. Especially if one wants to have believable characters that exhibit the full range of human emotion.