My week is filling up with end of an era type incidents and it’s about time I wrote an update. I think these events deserve a mention because of how they currently influence my work on The Road to Merville, and my life in general.
These events are as follows: Firstly, after nearly ten years of intermittent study, I have come to the end of the Comprehensive Creative Writing Course with the Writer’s Bureau; secondly, the era of total lock-down has eased considerably and brought with it a myriad of feelings, including, surprisingly, melancholy; thirdly, my youngest child has abruptly and without closure (due to the Pandemic, not his wonderful school), finished his time at primary school, and I find myself a mother of two children who are quickly developing into thoughtful and opinionated young people - I am no longer communicating with the inconsistent and amusing babble of infants.
To my first point. Let me start at the beginning. I have described myself in the past as a perpetual student. I have always strived to learn, and as a consequence, since school, I have undertaken various different educational courses. A Levels, City & Guilds, BTEC National Diploma, BA (Hons) Degree. I did eventually fall into full-time work - in a job I adored - working for Headway East London - a charity for people with acquired brain injury. I also met my husband, Adam, in London, and times were fast, fun, and carefree. But alas, London was not the place I dreamt of raising our children. Being a country girl at heart, I yearned for them to grow up in the beauty and space of our picturesque English countryside. We were sad to leave the big smoke, but it has always been the right decision for our family. Leaving a job that I loved was hardest of all. I started to work for my husband’s stage crew business from home, but accounts and Payroll are not nearly enough for my inquisitive mind.
I’ve said before that I’ve always enjoyed writing. Or rather, I’ve always enjoyed words. In all I’ve done, it’s always the writing that I’ve enjoyed the most. The essays, the dissertations, the reports. So, to study a comprehensive course about writing, from home and in my own time, sounded idyllic. Almost ten years later I have actually finished. I promised my tutor very early on that I would, without doubt, see this thing through to the end - and although the course is supposed to take no more than four years, it is flexible enough (for a small additional yearly fee) to extend as and when needed. Raising two small children and working a full-time job were not enough to keep me from my goal, and here I (eventually) am.
If it wasn’t for this course - above all the others I’ve undertaken - I wouldn’t be writing a novel at all. Conversely, if it wasn’t for all the other courses fuelling my love of learning, I most likely would never have studied this course. Over the last ten years I have studied and practiced writing non-fiction articles for magazines and newspapers, making contacts and approach editors with pitches for articles, tackling different subjects and find what interests me the most, how to find ideas for, and write short stories, how and when to approach agents and publishers, how to plan and write a novel, and writing for the Radio and the Stage/TV (and breathe). This is a very broad description of a very broad and detailed course - there is a mountain of information, assistance, and guidance, and I have enjoyed every spoken and written word of it. I am quite bereft that I have come to the end, and I will feel lost for some time after I receive feedback on my last assignment. It is an open assignment - I can send in any work of fiction to be appraised - up to 3,000 words. I plan to send a chapter of my book and promise to share the feedback - however critical - here with you.
To my second point, on which I will not dwell too long, because, of course, I am glad that lock-down is easing and life outside our homes is slowly opening itself up again. My children are especially happy to be able to socialise face to face with a few of their friends, and it has done wonders for their well-being after being stuck at home with just Mum and Dad for months. However, I am at heart an introvert. I instinctively shy away from social situations and have to prepare myself, in a way, to cope. This is something I have realised quite recently (even more so during lock-down) and it is a welcome awakening. I love spending time with family and friends, but I love spending time alone to recharge my social batteries just as much. I must be able to recharge to avoid a meltdown - that is the plight of an introvert. That is why a little part of me is sad to see the end of our being locked down; the end of solitude and quiet time - time to ponder and work on personal projects. It is an era that has invoked mixed feelings in me, an era that has allowed me to expand on my old dreams and imagine dreams anew.
To my third point. My son is in year six at primary school - a brilliant and nurturing school that has seen both my children happily through their early years. When my daughter finished year six there was a party, a ceremony, presentations, embarrassing baby photographs, and an end of year play. All of these things were a rite of passage - a coming of age experience boosting them onward to their next adventure. Due to the Coronavirus, my son has not been allowed these experiences to send him on his way to big school. He finished on Tuesday (after only going back two days a week for a few weeks since lockdown) with a socially distanced walk out of the gates and an encouraging onward wave from his teacher. He is a bright boy who has chosen a secondary school that has been difficult to get him into. We’ve just finished a lengthy appeal process which secured him a place, and he is over the moon, but the build-up and excitement of that success has been extinguished by Covid. This should be the best primary school year of his short life so far. It’s very sad to witness. I am absolutely resolved to celebrate this rite of passage with him - celebrate his successes and boost his confidence as he moves forward. But having to face this end with him has made me very aware of the growing up that seems to be happening around me. Both my children are becoming people - opinionated, thoughtful and worthy of our undivided attention and consideration (not that we ignored them as infants - I’m talking about a different kind of earned respect). The passing of time comes quicker with age, and I am not willing to let it pass unnoticed. It is this realisation that gives fire to my determination to finish my book. Before it’s too late. My deadline for finishing the first draft is 31st December 2020.
The Road to Merville is developing. I can’t bring myself to say developing well at the moment because, after weeks of writing up to chapter 13, I have hit a wall and I am questioning everything; the story, the progress, the hook, the conflict, the characters. I’ve been so confident of it all up to now - to suddenly falter is like a slap to my cheek. I still believe it’s a wonderful story - but am I telling it the way it should be told? I promised you I would reveal whatever feedback my tutor gives me on my final assignment, which I will be submitting in the coming week. Let’s wait and see what revelations come from that.
And to finish...I do believe my ear has been bent by the whisperings of another venture that I may follow in support of an ongoing writing career. More on that next time too. I hope I haven’t bored you too much with my rambling nonsense, and good job for wading through the fog to the end! Until next time...?