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Friday, 28 January 2011

Looking Up

A lovely visit from my eldest daughter, taking a break from uni, opened my eyes. I realised that I rarely look up from my laptop during the day while the other girls are at school. Grudgingly I see to the needs of the washing machine and sometimes I'll remember that a bed has to be changed or the surly upstairs toilet is waiting for me to unblock it again. But I rush back to my little table covered in books and notes and, oddly, the salt and pepper, and get back to what I love doing best when I'm alone. All the writing stops as soon as the family arrive home and it feels like the perfect time to put it aside. By then, I'm all written out.

However, it was inspiring to look up from the screen for a couple of days to enjoy my daughter's company. She and her beautiful new boyfriend entertained me with their news and views, their funny banter, their wicked impressions of people and their obvious love for each other. They sat on the pew in the kitchen with a never-ending pot of tea, while I sat opposite and just drank it all in. (The entertainment rather than the tea.) It was a realisation for me. Firstly, they are an exquisite couple. But secondly, I don't sit down and look/listen enough any more. Their visit showed that I have cut myself off perhaps a little too much from the world. I gleaned so many ideas for stories from looking/listening to them.

Now, I am still not going to change myself much. I am a loner by nature, except when family are here. Then all my attention is happily focused on the people I'm with. But I shall make an effort to leave the house and sit in coffee shops more, observing people and picking up a few strands of ideas to weave into stories. Time to look up from the writing occasionally and just tune in to the world outside my kitchen.

However, I shall keep my eyes peeled while I sit in Costa. And if I spot anyone I'm acquainted with, I might duck under the table. I'm not that sociable yet. Besides, I'll be too busy making notes.


  1. I know what you mean, Joanna. A good balance of time on our own to write and input from the outside world is needed, I think. Sometimes I've found in the past that I start to run out of ideas after a couple of quiet days and then when I take a day off and go around a museum or out with friends, fresh ideas spring up. The writing mind needs stimulation.

  2. Interesting post, Joanna. I was telling one of my writing friends the other day that I try to go to Costa maybe once a week by myself (it's in a shopping mall). There's something about sitting in a public place with my coffee, notebook and pen that releases my creativity.

    I sit away in a side table if possible, so it's not about watching people (or them watching me!). I think, for me, it's getting away from the house/computer. Perhaps it's the fact of using pen and paper, but I always come home with something to put on the computer - and that helps me to get on with completing it.

  3. Your daughter and her boyfriend sound lovely.
    I think you're right and we all need to look up now and then. Sometimes all I need is a nice long walk on my own to clear all the rubbish out of my head.

  4. I really envy your ability to focus. I find it hard not to faff around when I'm supposed to be working.


  5. Thank you David, I agree that stimulation of the mind is vital and I do sometimes feel mine becoming a bit stale!

    Thank you Rosemary, I do think you're right that we come away with something new each time we distance ourselves from our usual spot. It can be so helpful I wonder why I don't do it more often. It should be a regular part of the week.

    Many thanks, Teresa. They are indeed two lovely people and very entertaining! A walk does work well. I always come home feeling ready to move things along. The fresh air often provides the solutions to plot-jams, as does a drive alone in the car sometimes too.

    Thank you, Suzanne. I can focus a bit too much sometimes and forget a lot of essential things. I forgot that our pony had broken a fence in his field. I was meant to sort it out, but got lost in the writing. Which meant a cross phone call from the man in the neighbouring field, whose mare was flirting outrageously with our delighted, but demented,pony. He took some catching! That'll teach me to cut myself off from things that need to take priority!

  6. You would have laughed at my unscheduled coffee stop this morning.

    I could put off the grocery shopping no longer. After I'd done it I went for a browse around another couple of places. In a new posh shop I picked up the tester of a room fragrance and managed to squirt myself in the eye. Those small nozzles are hard to see sometimes aren't they? Me and posh shops don't mix! From there I dashed into the toilets of the nearest department store to rinse my eye with cold water, but it was stinging so much I knew I wouldn't be able to drive home for a while. I was forced to pay £2 for a coffee I didn't really want, just so I could sit in the cafe and recover the use of my eye. Tried to eavesdrop on other customers, but there wasn't much doing!

    Now I'm home again and my eye has stopped stinging, but I still can't get rid of the lemon scent from my face. Yukk! Should have stayed in and finished a story!

  7. That sounds so painful, Joanne! The wind keeps blowing things in my eyes at the moment and they seem to get lodged behind my contact lenses. Then my eyes stream and I can't see where I'm going! I know what you mean about staying at home to write instead. It's a lot safer! I stopped at a motorway services yesterday and was so entranced by the particularly nice-tasting coffee and the marshmallows I spontaneously decided to have with it that I didn't do any eavesdropping and drifted into a world of my own!