Walking familiar paths with freshly curious eyes

I walked for several hours today, in the surprisingly warm sunshine, because I couldn’t settle and I’d spent hours doing admin jobs and rearranging my notes. It’s been a worryingly recurrent feature of the last few months, and I’ve tried to confront it with my usual tricks (star charts, targets, treats, journaling, reading, essay writing, editing etc) but to no avail. Creatively I feel paralysed, the world overwhelming, my expectations of myself and what I should/could/ought to be writing derailing me before I begin.

I set off on my usual route but when I came to the first fork in the path, this way or that, I stopped and thought about what would make me feel better, rather than just move forward on auto pilot or along a predetermined route. None of these paths are new (sorry Robert Frost!), but today I looked for where there was more sunlight, more snowdrops. I chose woodland tracks over tarmac because I wanted to be amongst trees. I walked up a hill to get the view. As I walked I let each previous choice inform the next one and the next until, almost by accident, I left my gloom behind and felt invigorated.

Writing can be like this, I think, when we get out of our own way and let it. Sylvia Plath, in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose and Diary , wrote “so many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” I brought curiosity to my walk today, I took time to feel. I walked forward not knowing which route I’d take home. It’s worth remembering that we don’t always need to know everything before we start writing, we could just begin and see what happens, follow where our character goes, observing her quietly and compassionately. I guarantee she’ll surprise you.

Last week, Jude recommended Tracy Fell’s wonderful ‘The Naming of Moths‘, her collection of short stories published by Fly on The Wall Press. Do read it if you haven’t already! This week I’d like to suggest you order from your library or put on your wish list Reverse Engineering Vol 1 & 11, published by Scratch Books (https://www.scratch-books.co.uk/product-page/reverse-engineering). ‘An innovative anthology revealing the inspiration, the ideals and the work involved in a great short story … brings together contemporary classic stories with their authors’ discussions of how they were written.
An essential book for everyone interested in how fiction works…’ That’s all of us isn’t it?

Our competition closes in nine weeks! Good luck and I hope you find time and space to wander/wonder as you write your stories.