I think my view of the writer’s life may have been a little over-romantic in the past. I had wild thoughts of a cottage in the country. The scent of honeysuckle wafting through the perpetually-open front door. A weed-free garden where the sun always shone. Self-polishing antique furniture. A dark green Aga. Kettle singing quietly. Bread baking. A dog slumbering at my feet. A cat curled in the rocking chair. And a steady stream of words flowing onto the page in exactly the right order. No need to edit. No interruptions from phones. Emails. Facebook. No need to work. Eat. Sleep. Go to the toilet …
I imagine it’s like that if you’ve written a couple of bestsellers. Apart from the physical necessities of course. But I’ve plunged into this after more than 50 years’ procrastination. The picture is a little different. It’s more one-bedroom flat. The scent of washing powder wafting from the perpetually-drying laundry. A forest of house plants in need of constant maintenance. I once read that having plants in the room makes you more creative. Does it matter whether they’re alive or not? Dilapidated second-hand furniture. White cooker. Electric kettle … And pets on the second floor? It really isn’t practical. As for the effortless flow of words. Forget it.
The past few days have been the most difficult so far. I’ve come within a whisker of giving up giving up not being a writer. My hand twitches every time I see the TV remote. The armchair’s never looked so good. I’m heading into the Guinness Book of Records for coffee consumption. Everything in me screams that this is a really stupid idea. Who am I trying to kid? I’m too old. It’s far too late to give up not being a writer … I should be in bed for heaven’s sake.
The One25 drop-in was short-staffed this afternoon. I offered to do an extra shift. Drop-in’s an amazing place. I’ll do a longer piece one day, to do it justice. I want to sketch today as a reminder. For myself as much as anyone. After all, it’s the reason I’m sitting here at midnight, bashing away at a keyboard instead of sleeping. In the drop-in, you can get hot food. Home-made cake. A hug. Clean clothes. A shower. A smile. And time to be yourself. It’s an oasis of normal for women whose lives are anything but. A safe space for those who have no safety on the street.
Today we dished up roast chicken. Roast potatoes. Vegetables. Pineapple pudding. We ate together. Discussed the need for more green space in cities. The calming effects of colouring. Some women were sewing. Making curtains. Working on the patchwork quilts they’re making. Fired up with plans to raise money for a new sewing machine. So much creativity and enthusiasm. Some aren’t ready for all that yet of course. But they were there. That’s the first step.
Somehow this afternoon made all the late nights, the existential angst worthwhile. I might never be the next big thing in literary novels. But I spent today with some incredible women. Strong. Determined. Fighting back. Reclaiming their lives. Against the odds. In the end, that’s what really matters.
I’m blogging to raise funds for One25, a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of their work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.