Inspiration comes from within… it’s a quote you’ll have seen often, usually accompanied by a beautifully filtered photo of a lone figure walking along the shore at sunrise. As a writer, it should make me take in a deep breath and nod wisely. But this is 2020, and what I really want someone to do is to add some small print at the bottom that says: and it’s a bloody* good job that it does too!
Finding inspiration in the usual places has been hard this year. Obviously.
Like most people, I’ve missed seeing family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, Zoom has been a blessing. And WhatsApp and Skype and Google hangouts. (Not Microsoft Teams. I hate Teams. It involuntarily turns on my camera and tries to spy on me every day, and I wouldn’t mind but most days I don’t brush my hair till lunchtime). But I miss hugs, I miss sitting around a dinner table listening to people’s side conversations, and I miss seeing the bottom half of all my favourite people…I think.
I have a disk injury. It’s been with me for a while, but in 2020 it decided to act up like a beast. Never mind long runs to clear the head and figure out tricky plot points, for most of this year I haven’t been able to walk more than a mile. More time to write you might think? In theory, yes. Also more time to obsess about coronavirus statistics and Donald Trump’s mental health. Maybe combining pain killers in the right way would achieve Jack Kerouac levels of inspiration? Not quite, but they do contribute to a newly found Olympic-level ability to doze off. And since most of my current manuscript has been written with me on the floor propped up on my elbows in front of my laptop, the napping is even easier. Seriously though, it’s been hard to feel inspired without the runs and long walks that I hadn’t realised were part of what kept me in a creative mood.
And of course, it’s been impossible to travel. Or at least to feel that you can travel safely, without putting others at risk. I’m self employed, and—as Amanda Radley wrote in her blog—one of the perks is that you can ‘binge work’ and then take longer periods of time out to travel. In 2019, I spent a couple of months in Porto, and used the time to write most of my second novel (Not this Time https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/books/not-this-time-by-ma-binfield-3355-b). The sun, the long days, the tawny port (ahem), all contributed to a mood that was perfect for writing a sun-drenched, slow burn romance between two former band members unexpectedly thrown back into each other’s lives. At the time, I thought that book flowed because being away meant I had a lot of free time, but as 2020 would prove, it was more than that, it was about feeling open and connected to love and romance and feeling like life was safe and soft and full of possibilities. Fast forward a year and like many authors, I’m working on a new book in the middle of a global pandemic. I have tawny port, I have endless days when I’m at home with plenty of time, and Wolverhampton even managed a few weeks of sunshine this summer. But the writing has been hard. Like most of the world, I don’t feel safe or contented.
In case this depressing blog has you reaching for the port and/or painkillers, let me end on a positive note. This staying at home so as not to spread a deadly disease thing has given me more time to cook (I am so into Russian food right now), to grow things (I grew and pickled my own gherkins folx) and to drink Yorkshire Tea made the way I like it. I’m helping my friend’s twin boys learn English, and they are helping me learn Russian. And I’ve had the time to get involved in community action to ensure that those who are vulnerable get the food and other essentials they need.
And above all, I’ve been inspired by the efforts and sacrifices of so many people, putting themselves at risk to make sure essential services continue during this pandemic and the frequent lockdowns. I wish them health and happiness and I hope we don’t forget what they did for us when this whole nightmare is over. The response of our health service in particular has been magnificent…and that’s inspiring. Stay safe!
*gratuitous use of the ‘bloody’ word for our American readers!