I have returned from deepest, darkest, Devon. No, not the metaphorical Devon of the mind – all rugged tufts of thought and sanity-rescue landrovers. The Devon of an Arvon writing retreat. Think thatch, intermittent showers and people waxing lyrical about the earlier works of Graham Greene. The sounds you can hear are the gentle benevolence of poets, and the frantic herding of cat-like egos, anxious and well, more anxious, fuelled by tea, cheese and red wine.
And the bellowing of cows confused by the changing of the clocks. Well, I say clocks. Whisper it quietly but I think some rocks could give cows a run for their money on an IQ test.
I have eaten my own bodyweight in Nutella, hopefully made new friends, conversed with a winner of the Orwell Prize (I’m convinced that you don’t talk with people who’ve won big awards. One converses. Darling. Actually, this is entirely unfair, as she was one of the nicest, most humble, sensible people I’ve met). There have been wild thoughts, and messages sent through the ether – through time and space. Many of which appear to have ended up written in shaky biro or felt tip pen in the drawer in the desk in my room.
I’ve shared secrets and madnesses, and told complete strangers the most unbelievable things. Except they were all true. Well, except the lies. A bit of heroic lamplight never hurt a good telling.
I’ve listened, and nodded, and read aloud. Prodded and probed. Been skewered – ‘I lost interest’ is possibly the most disheartening thing an individual can ever say to another. But I found new strengths. And revenge is best served in lines on a page. And there has been a lot of that. My shit list has lost a few names these past few days. Shame, by definition, they will never read the lines and recognise themselves. But still, the fun is had, regardless.
Catharsis. Only bettered by love. I’ve been excited by monologues and disgusted by chicken parts. I have written – every day, and in reasonable amounts. I feel I have grown from a writing puppy, keen, eager and needing to be toilet trained, to a more…controllable sort of writing dog. My paws are dirty, but my snout is clean. I still chase after cars. But they deserve it, for the most part. For being shiny and noisy and smelly and fast.
I steer clear of the cows. They stare. They know. I am sorry that I eat you, big, clumsy shaggy thing. But you are a cow. And I have opposable thumbs. And the wit and imagination to eat you. If not the skill and courage to kill you.
But I digress. Writing is good. Writing is fun. The novel moves on, and new faces come and go in reasonably bite-sized vignettes. I feel, at times, that I am writing something like Amelie-for-boys meets Poirot-with-the-black-humour-cells. And this pleases me. And the realisation that this pleases me, pleases me even more.
I’m not as scared as I once was. I can see the vaguest possibility of me finishing this book. And the freedom to write other things. I will no longer be trapped by these people. By Tom. By Monk Quixote. And there’s a slim chance that some people will find it interesting enough to publish. If I can hold their interest.
I will do what I can, dear blog, to write my little sporadic nonsense. But for now, the flow pulls me in the direction of a cab ride across London. And a man wearing a neckerchief will open the door to a surprise visitor.
I’ve written it before, and said it to everyone I can. But for any writer who feels unsure of themselves, or feels guilty about the selfishness of writing – retreating inwards, downwards – then I simply cannot recommend going on an Arvon Foundation course highly enough.
It was magic the first time. And the magic – and the cows – are back this time, too. And you know what, I think the cows have followed me home….
Yes, folks, my moo-joy has returned. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I tried to resist, but it was staring at me in another window. Like a big, shaggy, cow).