Back on my Bike

27th September 2004

I've made it. The transition's happened. I'm back to full-time writing again. Phew!

Wednesday made the difference. I took Humphrey Barclay back to the school where I was teaching (Samuel Whitbread Community College) till the summer. Humphrey has a couple of existences. In one he is a top TV situation comedy producer. In the other he is Chief of Development of a tibe in Ghana, and as such he runs Friends of Tafo. i've been working to twin the English school with the Ghanaian community, and this return visit was my bid to cement the relationship. The heartfelt welcomes from students and staff were very cheering. The meetings were all effective. After three hours though I was very merry about driving off into my own version of a sunset. Ideas for books are truly flowing again. Life is feeling creative once more.

Thursday felt like Day 1 of a new life. I spent much of it in the British Library, researching a duo of non-fiction books plus material for a thesis on dystopian fiction. A trip down the road took in the new exhibition of Emily Young. Last year James and myself wandered into Kew Gardens, strolled across lawns, and found ourselves in the middle of a truly wonderful sculpture exhibition. Akin to the slave sculptures of Michelangelo, faces emerged from a range of ancient stone. The stones reveal their shapes but the images also open the eye to the stones themselves. The sculptor is Emily Young. The images in this new collection are, expressed at their very simplest, large polished discs, heads, and torsos. The setting, wandering through the corridors of the crypt with a special soundtrack guiding the journey, the sculptures set into various niches, give the flavour of a journey into such as Niyaux discovering cave art. A set of larger sculptures ring the grounds outside as well. They are startling, beautiful, heartfelt pieces fashioned from remarkable stones. We had Barbara Hepworth, the century has turned, and now we have Emily Young. her writings are mounted on the wall. fresh from a lengthy reading of the works of James Purdy, I recognized some of the same clarity, passion, wildness and control in her brief writings. I love the image of her hitting stone and releasing a smell captured from a sea some billions of years ago. I am touched by her notion of the stone carrying her work inside it for another bilion years, for some alien civlization to discover and thereby thinking kindly of human endeavour. Meeting Emily since, it's a delight to come to know the vivacious being that works diamond drills to uncover such stories in stone.

The week was dragging to its Friday close, passing 3pm, I was feeling tired and grumpy, knowing my mood came from not having enjoyed any real creative writing for a good while. My new novel had stalled. I had written some chapters I no longer liked, had not found the courage to discard them, and did not know what to do in their place. What I in fact did was deploy a new trick. When you find something you don't like, step back to the last piece of writing you did like and change that the source for what went wrong is very likely within the preceding piece. So now the writing is flowing again. I am myself again. Life is fine.

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