I sort of thought, when I started university, that being in Cambridge would be inspiring. You know — all those old buildings, beautiful gardens, and the history that comes along with it. All the authors who have lived and written there, the pubs where important discussions were held, the sheer number of bookshops, some of them very large, that exist in the town.
But that didn’t actually turn out to be the case.
I’m not sure whether it was just because my brain power was being used up by other things, but I found myself completely lacking in inspiration a lot of the time during this year. Either I had ideas, and I couldn’t put them into words, or I had words but no ideas at all. Occasionally, I had neither. I’ve had a sort of total creative block the last few months, where I’ve written only a handful of poems and not much else.
You’ll have noticed that I haven’t been blogging a whole lot and while that’s partly because of time, it’s also because I just had nothing to say. And as for fiction, well, I’ve been trying to figure out how to start the second draft of Butterfly of Night for months, and I haven’t worked it out yet. I’ve tried so many things, but I can’t make it work. And I always run out of energy about halfway through a chapter anyway.
Since I came home on Friday night, I’ve written six poems: two on Saturday, four yesterday. It’s like my hometown, with its huge number of charity shops and cafes and complete deficit of anything else, is more inspiring than the beautiful and historic Cambridge. Why this should be, I’ve got no idea. I’ve got a few ideas though:
Option A: My hometown has more memories associated with it, good and bad.
Several of the poems I’ve written have been about an old friend of mine. We haven’t spoken in a year and a half, but there was always a lack of closure in our final argument, and I’d have to confess that I’m not entirely over it. I can forget about that in Cambridge, but here, I find myself walking past his house on my way to places, or sitting on the same bench I sat on during one of our arguments, or walking through a park where we hung out together. All those associations mean that angsty poetry comes more easily than I’d like.
Option B: I associate my room at home with writing.
I’ve written the vast majority of my novels in this room. My desk’s been in different positions, and some of the novels were written in a more itinerant fashion (one was written on a boat in Norfolk and in a house in France as well as here; another was finished in a hotel on Guernsey), but for the most part, this desk and this room is where I write. I’m not even sure how many first drafts I’ve written now — fifteen? sixteen? — but I associate this place with creativity, and with writing. So maybe my brain kicks into gear once I’m sitting here.
Option C: A colourful environment helps me write.
My room is exceedingly colourful. It’s got cheerful yellow walls, a blue lino floor and red curtains. It’s stuffed full of books, many of them brightly coloured (especially the children’s fiction, that tends to be more colourful). There are posters and photographs on the wall, like a print of an old world map that’s brightly painted, or the wall of photographs immediately in front of my desk that shows some of my best photography, and which I can see when I’m writing. There’s the Scott Pilgrim poster that’s mostly only there to annoy my dad. There are pictures of my friends, tickets from shows I’ve been to, printed rejection emails from agents stuck to the wall. This room is full of colour, unlike my room at uni. So maybe that helps.
Option D: Maybe I just needed something to write about.
I’ve been reading about various aspects of Irish myth and folklore, and that’s provided inspiration for a couple of poems. As I mentioned, I’ve had more personal things to write about. And finally, I’ve settled on a theme for my next poetry collection (well, actually, the next two, but only one of them has a proper cover, so that’s the one I’m telling you about). Knowing what my theme will be gives me focus, and helps me write things that are relevant.
So, I spent part of yesterday making this:
This was one of five different covers I made for this collection, and eventually I decided I liked this one best. It’ll probably still be tweaked before it’s final, just to make sure it looks as good as it possibly can, but this is a decent approximation of what you’ll see.
I have no idea when this collection will be finished — I probably only have a third of the contents, so it could take months for me to finish. But maybe not, if every day is as productive as yesterday. I’ll let you know as soon as I have a date.
Okay, so I still haven’t figured out how on earth I can fix this novel of mine. Butterfly of Night is proving to be the most stubborn book I’ve ever tried to edit, and I’m completely stumped at the moment. But maybe the poems will get the gears in my brain working enough that I can figure it out before I plan to start writing on the first of July.
And at least I no longer feel like I’m not writing anything at all.