A Writer's Diary
Some writers believe that they must allow their material to 'marinate', so that it becomes potent – like Bill Nighy, in a scene from I Capture the Castle, when he breaks all the china and carries it off in a briefcase in search of meaning. Probably my mother would be displeased if I broke our china . . . though existential crises call for desperate measures.
Writing is like breathing. It is essential to the existence of the writer, although she does not know its importance. I feel like I've been holding my breath for months, waiting for someone to come along, some character, to inspire me. Often I neglect my writing when I do not wish to confront the deepest parts of myself: my disappointments, my fears, my anxieties. The problem with paper is that it cannot lie. As the Walter Mitty theme song goes, "the way I feel is the way I write, / these are not the thoughts of a man who lies." In her Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf often talks about the burning (almost painful) need to write. I have never felt this so intensely as I did in Cambridge, walking across Clare bridge to Michaelhouse, where I would spend each morning scrawling my thoughts, post-espresso.
I miss those moments intensely. I still dream about Cambridge, standing behind the gothic spires shading the moon, looking down on the chequered lawns lit up at night. There is so much wealth in experience that I am rich, loaded to the brim with emotions and ideas and images of the past and England. England fundamentally changed me. It educated me in the ways of the world and brought me (however begrudgingly) face to face with my soul. I suppose that is what travelling is meant to do. Still, my year in England was a breathing space; it brought me into contact with silence, and with the divine. I don't mean the divine in the religious sense, so much as the notion that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves – some beautiful, cosmic machine that brings everything into balance. One gets the sense that we are all walking in the footsteps of our ancestors, and there is a certain reverence in that. These places, where we feel our connection to history, are what the Celts call 'thin' places.
What is it about a room that evokes a feeling or sends a message? I believe that every action in a space creates and endows that space with meaning, making it a 'place'. For me, England is a place of growth and transcendence, and of writing. I can't wait to return to it in May, if only to sit in that beautiful hybrid of a café / church, and fill another Moleskine. Walking through lavender fields in the Cotswolds towards a ruined fifteenth-century abbey is another, added bonus.