I’m going on a mini-break. At least that’s what I’ve told my husband we’re doing. Really it’s a research trip, organised specifically for the purposes of furthering my novel writing career. The reason: a little village called Ewelme in Oxfordshire. A place once made famous by Chaucer and more recently by Midsummer Murders, it’s the main setting for my story and recently I came to the conclusion that there’s only so much I can glean about it from internet research. I truly believe that I have to go there. I have to see the watercress beds for myself, smell the pig shit in the air, feed the ducks at King’s Pool, otherwise my writing about the place just isn’t going to cut it.
So I’ve found us a nice little cottage near Henley, which has the conveninence of access to a private swimming pool and trampoline – essential on a mini-break I find, and armed with my camera and my notebook, I’m going to immerse myself in the place. I’m quite excited about it. It’s having the effect of making the whole writing thing seem ‘proper’ to me. Which of course it is, but at this unfinished, unpublished stage, it is still only a dream that I’m chasing.
So it’s a research trip cunningly disguised as a mini-break for my husband and a holiday for my soon to be three year old daughter. It makes me wonder how many other writers have had to con their other halves about their writing. A fair few, I would guess. For a long time, I have struggled with viewing my writing as something that warrants real time spent on it, not just a few snatched minutes here and there in the confines of my bedroom, when my husband is in the shower or my child is asleep. That it does not have to be a guilty pleasure, but something that I can, and should, acknowledge as a key part of my day. This is harder to do than it sounds. And not because my husband isn’t supportive, he is, but because I’m conditioned to think that after the business of looking after my daugther and trying to earn some money, which of course must come first and second respectively, cleaning, washing, ironing and all the other household requirements come next. Saying to myself, ‘No, I’m not going to clean the toilet today, the toilet can go on being grim, I am going to write 1,000 words of my novel instead,’ takes quite a lot of will power. I’m sure men don’t think these things. I’m sure that if I was a man who had decided to be a novelist, I would have written the damn thing by now. But I’m not, I’m a woman who has the last two hundred thousand years of patriarchal oppression running through my veins. And I’m house proud.
So it’s taking me a little longer to write this novel than I’d hoped, but I’m determined to get there and this mini-break is all part of the plan. A stop on the journey, that’s all.
Ewelme here I come.