I am sad to have to report that my dear brother died just over a month ago after his 22 month battle with brain cancer. I was with him on this journey for as much as I could manage, although of course in the end the journey was his alone. There was much that was difficult and challenging, but also heart-warming and immensely enjoyable in a bitter-sweet way, and I am left (as are all who were close to him) in awe of the way he embraced the limited life left to him, and bereft of his unique presence. His funeral was attended by about 80 people, and we gave him the send-off he deserved. The bond I now have with his many friends is a consolation I will hang onto for a long time.
The last two weeks have been spent with my husband in a holiday-let on the NW Scottish coast. The trip was planned a while ago, the idea being to see how we fared in the winter here, as we are thinking of moving up here in a couple of years. It has turned out to be excellent timing, giving me a complete break following the immediate aftermath of my brother’s death, a chance to reflect and recharge.
I also had in mind taking the opportunity to see how it would be to be a full-time writer here (well, I would need to grab an income wherever I could, but hopefully wouldn’t require a 30 hour a week day job as at present). And so I set myself the task of getting back to work on my novel. A large part of the novel is set in this part of the world and although I have been here before as a tourist in the summer (which is when the novel is set), I wanted to try and get more of a feel of how it would be for the character I have living here, as opposed to the ones who are just visiting. I also wanted to start work on the back story for another main character, the one I have had the most problems with up to now. This character is an artist and so part of my task is to track her artistic development and influences over the past 30 odd years.
I wouldn’t describe the attention I have given these tasks as full-time. There are plenty of tempting displacement activities: walks on the beach, exploring the local area, going to the pub, attending a couple of events, browsing the wealth of interesting books on the area and its history, listening to the local radio station, on top of the usual distractions that Wifi and TV provide. And then of course I have needed time to simply lie about doing nothing, just looking out of the window. I have cut myself a lot of slack, knowing that I need this time to start to absorb the fact of my brother’s death and my feelings about it, to take stock and think about my life ahead.
But still I have probably managed a couple of hours a day on the writing tasks. I have note-booked observations based on conversations with a few local people which will help me locate my Scottish character in a similar setting. I have made some headway with my artist character’s back story, helped enormously by discovering the Artsy website. A fantastic resource, with a huge database of over 300,000 images of art spanning historical and contemporary eras and searchable by theme (eg Feminist Art) as well as by decade, lots of interesting articles, news and more. Hugely distracting in itself, but you can’t have too much art, really, can you?
Home the day after tomorrow, back to life with a busy December lined up. I am hugely grateful for the gift of this time with no pressure in this beautiful place and I’m sure it will help me embrace the challenges of my full-time life ahead, including pressing on with the writing and getting this novel finished.