Don’t want to sleep

It’s 2 a.m., and Mike is snoring lightly by my side, snug in our new bed. Our bedroom still smells of fresh paint (with an added hint of popcorn and Sainsbury’s prawn layered salad). Zoe got on the 380 bus about an hour ago, after a giggly day of inventions and good intentions, and I’ve spent hours browsing WordPress themes and used my best endeavours to turn her emotional journeys into comedic entertainment for our new project.

The third wine bottle has just been emptied, and with everyone gone I’m rounding off the evening with some comforting tunes from the best voice in Sweden. I still can’t decide if I prefer the magic of late night quietude or the vigour of early morning sunshine. I guess the answer is to just stay awake all the time.

greenwich night

The order of things

The other day I escaped the DIY clean-up operations at home and met up with sweet Zoe again at our favourite hang, the Dial Arch. Since we last saw each other, it had been made clear that I had read and been influenced by male journalist travel writers only, and was obviously not being as honest and authentic in my writing as I should, so Zoe had put me on Eat, Pray, Love duty.  It was a bit of an eye opener, and I realised that I’m not a dry, witty, researching journalist type writer, but more of an emotional observer and analytical explorer. While I’ve been reading Liz Gilbert (not without shame – always making sure to hide the book cover when reading in public, and feeling extremely silly for doing so), the USA book has faded away to be revisited at a later time, because I think the tale of my first backpacking trip is eager to be born first. She will be the elder sibling, the laying down of the foundation. That was when I was all alone for five months and truly had to face myself and all the ugly stuff inside, as well as the beautiful treasures and surprising resources I found within me. I feel like if I figure out the arc of that first journey, then I will be able to see the shape of the second one. This might be how it wants to happen.

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Zoe and Bella at Dial Arch

 

Anyhow, Zoe got stuck in traffic so I ordered a black coffee and sat down to write. I opened the USA book and nothing came. I couldn’t even look at it. So I opened a blank document and began writing about the first trip, and before long my heart was pounding hard in my chest as the words positively poured out of me. I must have looked like a lunatic, staring intently at the screen and mouthing words as I wrote dialogue, my face contorting along with the emotions that arose with the words. When the barman came to pick up my coffee mug I was so buzzy I couldn’t speak to him.

“You done with your coffee?” he asked and began to clean up.

I surprised myself by shouting “Yes please!” and went on to stammer something about how I would order another coffee but will wait for friend because sorry just really into this!

I wrote 2,000 words in the hour it took Zoe to get there, and by the time she arrived I was out of breath and trembling. I’ve been very pleased with certain parts of the USA book, but never has the process of writing felt like that – it has more been like carefully assembling an IKEA corner desk, whereas this was more like a child let loose with oil paints.

I pounded out 3,000 more words that afternoon, and I think it’s actually quite good – but the verdict will come at the Greenwich Writers’ meetup next week. My stomach turns thinking about it.

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Ambles and frolics

Last weekend Mike and I went for a long walk in surprising 16 degree sunshine.  Life went in a blink from drizzly winter’s end to blazing summertime, with exuberant dogs splashing on the riverbanks, posh people gathering over fro-yos and bottles of Pinot in Richmond, black-haired teenagers smoking weed and kissing on benches, and rustic riverboats covered in flower pots and drying laundry floating past, leaving behind a scent trail of barbecues and beers.  I climbed onto a seemingly abandoned wreck and immediately got told off by a river hobo.  We walked for five hours from Kingston to Barnes, and finished with a golden and well-deserved pint after the sun had set over Kew Gardens.  Turns out the Thames is a hella lot longer than one might think.

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Though I’m fairly certain I would be a happier, more confident person if I lived in a sunnier country, I could never be without the seasons.  I’d love to always be skipping around in flowy dresses and flip-flops, but there is nothing quite like the relief of spring and people flocking outside to soak up the long-awaited rays.

Now the cloud cover is back, and I’m snuggled up on the sofa with Mike and coffee and fairy lights.  Mike practices Swedish (“kvinnan läser tidningen … flickorna dricker mjölk”) while I write.  There’s nothing I love more than the sound of a clicking keyboard, effortlessly shaping thoughts into words.  I just wish I could find a direct link to the creative muse, so that I could open the download stream and get into flow at will.  My book seems to be trapped in a pressure cooker and I’m scared to remove the lid, so instead I read others’ stories to see if I can replenish my creative dam and avoid stagnation.  As a clinical people-pleaser, it’s a significant effort to wash away projections and assumptions and just write how I want it to read.  “Gotta get to the center… Run off with a dancer…”

Otherwise I mostly spend my days in useful writing sessions and inevitable pint o’clocks with Zoe at Dial Arch, and having a writing companion is immensely helpful.  We read and review each other’s work, vent our frustrations, share stories and ideas, and justify each other’s drinking.  What fortunate timing.