First published in July 2017
Named after the really great book by Stephen King On Writing (I can’t actually read any of his books because I don’t like reading anything scary, but I love this book about the writing process.
The last time my mood got really low was during a period of stress at work, a minor distance from my husband, and loneliness in my female friendships. On top of that, I had stopped writing. At the time, I didn’t care, I didn’t even put it down as a hobby when I filled out an application form. Instead I put singing!* I spent the day alone watching Boyhood (real time film about families and growing up that shows just how fast it all goes). It showed the good bits and the mistakes and got me thinking of all the things I could have done differently. I called a few friends, they were all busy or unavailable. I panicked: should I go back to counselling? Was I depressed? Or was I, as I suddenly realised, just a writer who had stopped writing? My fingers tingled, and I began to write…
*I moved and had to find a new yoga class. The yoga teacher introduced me to someone who lived in my new town. That person invited me to join a pop up singing group. I was blissed out after yoga and agreed. I thought maybe it was about me getting rid of my inhibitions. It did do that, but it led onto something much more important. The singing group woman also invited me to a book club and gave me the names of the two books they were reading. I went to the library, it was closed, I went to the book shop, it only had one of the two books in- Orlando. I made my excuses about the book club but I read Orlando. It was better, much better for me than the singing; seeming to unlock my writing, focus and structure, and if I had to pay my dues in advance by wearing a silly hat and singing out of tune in public then it was a fair price.
The fact that I got so low over a film shows how fragile my state of being was and how sensitive I was that a film could put me in that place, and how this new found neutrality is quite literally a life saver, that now I can run over a baby rabbit on the way to work and barely give it a second thought.**
**If you are like I was, and find even reading that upsetting, let me ease you by saying: It ran out in front of me as I was driving along a main road, hurtling across the middle. I put on my brakes- I didn’t slam them, but nor did I check in my rear view mirror either, so that evens out the me-rabbit balance, but I felt it go under the front driver wheel. I wondered afterwards, would it have been better not to have braked? If I had been going slightly faster, would I have gone past it, or at least would the front wheels have gone past it? An old boyfriend of mine told me that animals have better instincts than us and it is best not to brake as they will have judged it. So are all the dead animals and birds at the side of the roads not as I always thought, due to people driving too fast, or animals and birds walking, running or flying unavoidably out in front of you, but are actually the result of caring drivers slamming on their brakes? Probably not. I think he was mainly referring to deer, as he had hit one a few years previously, driving through Thetford Forest. It had run out, no way to stop it. He said they made eye contact as it hit the windscreen. That was my Vietnam, he used to say. I don’t know if baby rabbits are as capable as grown deer of judging speeds and distances of traffic on main roads. Apparently they don’t even know what to eat, they just eat anything and everything and it’s just luck or trial and error if they survive. So it’s not that I didn’t give running over a baby rabbit a second thought, it’s just that I decided not to get upset about it.