I've had a very disrupted year, writing-wise. I'm speaking in terms of the academic year, here: those academic-year rhythms are so deeply ingrained that like Emma Darwin I always think of this time of the year as a new beginning. The leaves beginning to fall, the darkening evenings and the earlier twinkling of the lights in the windows fill me with an excited sense of adventures to come. Consequently, it's a time too for reassessment.
This time last year I was busy on the blog story, which though I enjoyed immensely and found a welcome change from the isolation of the normal writing mode, was of course time out from my own writing. It was immediately followed up by the activities involved in the launch of Balancing - those promotional activities for which I at any rate need a different mentality from that which I need for writing. As far as I'm concerned, it's a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde situation: for the promotional work one must trip the switch and shrug off the dreamy, receptive personality who does the writing, and become outgoing and hard-headed. (In fact the blog story required a strange fusing of those two personae, which was perhaps why I found it so all-encompassing.) After Christmas I got time to myself at last and managed, once my head had settled, to begin on a new series of short stories. But it was indeed a question of waiting for my head to settle. A week or so ago I read Jeanette Winterson's novel Lighthousekeeping: in the Postscript to my paperback edition Winterson describes well the necessity to wait for fiction to happen to you, the fact that it simply can't be forced, one needs to be emotionally and creatively ready. (In fact, appropriately, Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde features in Lighthousekeeping.)
Well, by the end of January I was ready, but I had written only three stories or so when family illness struck with a vengeance: both John and my brother became seriously ill, and while the danger is now passed for both of them and I did begin writing again in May, I have to say that my creative focus has been intermittent.
But then yesterday things felt different. I had washed all the dirty laundry we had brought back from Wales, the summer was over and packed away. There was that soft, fizzing, typically Manc autumnal rain falling. Suddenly I experienced that old familiar combination of peacefulness and excitement. I went to my desk and in a flash I saw the way to write the story I conceived in Wales but of which I'd only so far managed a sentence, and the wrong one at that.
Here's hoping, anyway...