Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A Walk Around the Block

Margaret Atwood’s blog has ten tips for writer’s block. Number 1 is to go for a walk. Others include “Write in some other form - even a letter or a journal entry. Or a grocery list. Keep those words flowing through your fingers.” (No 3) and “Eat chocolate, not too much, must be dark, shade-grown, organic.” (No 6)

Whether I am struggling with my current manuscript or not, I walk on Hampstead Heath. Where I turn back to go home, there is a bench with this verse in place of the usual dedication to a deceased loved one: 

I was born tomorrow Today I live Yesterday killed me 

Perhaps I should use these words by the Iranian writer, Parviz Owzia, in an exercise and ask my students what Parviz meant. Each time I look at them, I come up with a new meaning.

This being Hampstead, there is quirky poetry too (Leslie Noaks 1914 - 2000): 

“Seagull, seagull, how do you float?
Upon the water without a boat?”

He thought to himself and then he frowned

Turned on his side and slowly drowned

There is one near the ponds on the Parliament Hill side of the Heath which was meant to be funny, but has undergone a change since its original inscription: "Now in years bestride my eighties, this Elysian seat I have vacated, but gentle neighbour sigh not yet, I’ve only moved to Somerset." It has an addendum: “Died 1999” 

These benches are wooden memorials, as well as places of rest and refuge. Those marking a life are poignant reminders of how precious, and short, life is. One of my students, Pat Conway, came to a workshop last year and sent me the following: "Write Now! in New Mexico” was the best writing workshop I've ever been to. Every aspect was helpful: the exercises, the feedback, the sharing. It made me realize that WRITING is the point, not writing a book or even getting published. Those can all come or not; writing is the goal. Your teaching helped me remember that I don't want to die with my song unsung." So go for that walk, look at the sky, the kites, the grass. Then come home and write. 

Stay tuned . . .

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