Monday, September 23, 2013

Refill that well and dive in head first!

Well, I survived the manuscript submission last month – huge fun writing about a ferocious January snow storm in Colorado during one of the hottest UK summers in years! And now I’m deep into edits, also with a deadline, but there was a halcyon week of blissful nothingness somewhere in between which gave me time to recharge my batteries and, to use a phrase I’ve heard many times, refill the well.  Being kind to yourself doesn’t always come easily and it took a few days to break the habit of switching on my laptop before breakfast, but eventually the very thought of pressing that button made me feel ill. The obsessive checking of iPhone and Kindle fire waned too, so hurrah and hooray I am NOT addicted to social media (even in a stalking capacity) after all! And do you know what? Putting all the wretched charging cables for that lot in a drawer for a week was hugely liberating, I shall do it more often.

And I left the building every day. Oh yes, I did. I got dressed and went places. I breathed fresh air, blinked in the sunlight and talked to people. I did! And even better I was inspired by the things I saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt; a tonic for the mind as well as the body.

So read on if you’re interested in some of the things I got up to in that week and the thought processes they set off. And watch out for them in future books!

I visited a large romantic house on the grounds of an ancient monastery with a real life well that is fed from an underground spring. A stream flows out from the well (you can just see it in the top right hand corner of the photograph below) and then on into a trout-filled river, but at first glance it looks like the stream is feeding into a pond. Then you notice the water is flowing backwards which comes as a great surprise. Like a cunning plot twist at the end of a book, a reminder that things are often not as them seem … 

There was also a gallery showing thirty-eight rare, hand-painted illustrations of Winnie-the Pooh and his friends. They’d never been seen in the UK before, and were created for the books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.  Who doesn’t love a cosy bed time story? And a small child clutching a favourite toy?

I stood in the rain at a country show  and watched a breathtaking display by an equestrian stunt team called The Devil's Horsemen .Men and women riders, seemingly fearless, utterly nubile and incredibly fit. It wasn’t until I got home I realised how many films and advertisements I’d seen these people and horses in. I wonder if I can get away with a Cossack at some point…Here’s a youtube link if you want to see them in action the week before I saw them.

Anyway, there’s no denying being one of The Devil’s Horsemen is a very interesting job. It could take you onto film sets all over the world, or get you hired for an extravagant event by someone very wealthy and or/famous, all sorts of possibilities. Protagonists need jobs and interests  and people do get very attached to their horses. And then there are vets and landowners and farriers …
Shortly before seeing the horses, a woman was beating her Chihuahua puppy for peeing on her foot and was being berated by a bystander for doing so. An ugly scene ensued! Could this be the seed for a life-altering inciting incident from which a high concept proposal could grow? I think it could be, or the starting point for one at least. The kids kept talking about the dog pee woman for days.

I gawped at vintage cars and Victorian gardens at Beaulieu in the New Forest and there was a miniature caravan made for a prince and princess to play in, secret doors and ghosts in the mansion house. During a private tour I got to sit on Lord Montague’s sofa … Different worlds, eh? There was even a real life tale of love lost and an illegitimate heir, the lord and his secretary. She was the inspiration for this:

And then she was lost at sea … Really!

I did so many other wonderful things, too many to fit in here without this post turning into a great big advert for the south coast of England, but it did chuck a good few buckets of inspiration into the barely damp well of my imagination. I also now know that a few days isn’t enough to refuel the writing engine, in my case I need at least a week so I’m almost there on the work/life balance!

Right, I must slink back to my cell and get on with those edits, but all is not lost as I go to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands before Christmas. Miles and miles of blue sea and golden sand dunes are waiting for me and my camera. I've never felt the yearning to write a sheikh, but then again do deserts and sand necessarily need to have a man in flowing robes with a camel? Methinks maybe not … I’ll keep you posted!

What's your favorite way to fill the well?

1 comment:

  1. Ooh, some lovely inspiration there, Rachel. I'm a real devil for looking at social media as soon as I wake up too. FOMO is a killer!

    I find it really hard to unwind after an intense writing session, but you're right, it's SO necessary. I went for a long run on Sunday after living in deadline hell for most of the week. It was lovely to breath the fresh air, feel the blood pumping and give my poor eyes a rest from staring at a screen for a while. I'm taking a - short - break from writing and trying to catch up with my tbr pile at the moment. A daunting task :)