Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Blue Taffeta Dress

I’ve blah’d on here and in other places about the illusory nature of so-called ‘writer’s block’. Now it seems I’m just emerging from one of these things. Susan, Wendy and Ian (15, 13, 11)

I have lectured myself about winter blues; about being physically and mentally tired after finishing the French Novel, not to mention the challenges of the Easington project; about using up my usually overflowing Ideas Basket; about the need for fallow time to give my mind a chance to spring back into place.

I acknowledged all that but it was painful to be in the middle of it. It struck me that writing is my one steady and true life-companion and I’m lonely without her. I am addicted to her deadlines and there is the possibility that the rolling deadlines - the organising feature of my life - are one way in which I feed that need.

I have my reasons for feeling used up. At the centre is the unique nature of the French Novel, where I explored the depths of my odd perceptions of time, space and life after death. These things are there at the core of my story of needy and funny Starr, of wise Modeste, and the miraculous boy Tib.

Perhaps I needed more recovery time after completing this novel than any other.

I tried to leave the write-stop (my new name for w.b…) alone. After all, there was Christmas and New Year with its baubles, presents and presentiments. There were my delightful and absorbing visitors. And there was the beautiful snow – although that was (and continues to be) an unwelcome and disabling visitor.

Then there was the afternoon by the fire with Debora sorting out old family photographs – particularly of her grandmother Barbara - so she could have copies. (You will note that the pictures of Barbara, inspired my previous, heartfelt post here.)

Apart from the photos of Barbara, images the whole of my life started to trickle before me – frowning baby , Wendy and barbara curly headed, earnest little girl, Wendy 5

wendy aged 5-6Wendy 16

and the only one out of uniform in sixth form groups,

and the astonishingly young and slender bride in a hired wedding gown Wedding Cake and Us,

Grahame and Debora and Wendyand the young and the older mother …

Wendy and Deb

Close Up Wendy signing and the writer.

One very special snap emerged from the higgledy piggeldy pile - of myself at 11 with my older sister and younger brother in front of the door of the house we lived in then. My sister is wearing a flowered dress. I am wearing a dress in violet blue taffeta with a broderie anglaise trim on the collar and a ruched cummerbund. On my feet are inappropriate white, canvas plimsolls. I am thin. My arms and legs are stick-like.

I turned the snap over and there in a schoolgirl’s round hand is written. ‘I am in the flowered dress. The other girl is my sister.’

The Other Girl Is My Sister! Now there is a good title for a short story. Or a novel…

… and Bang! The the writer’s block /write-stop is gone.

I have gone from stop to GO. Debora and Barbara have done the trick.



  1. Wow! I love that aspect of the creative one idea or image can then translate into something more. A story or a novel, even.

    I had that happen recently, when I felt blocked. I was clicking around on the web, and thought about how I get "lost in the blogosphere," and then I started writing a short story about that concept.

    From there, I'm thinking...hmm, prologue for new novel. So I'm off and running again.

  2. Don't you just love it when that happens, Wendy? An image, a phrase, a piece of music, a dream, a fragment of overheard conversation can be all that is needed to jump-start us again. And what a delightful post you have crafted from your experience.

    My jump-start came from a casual conversation with our postman on Christmas Eve. It's now a short story.

    May you have a wonderful year of writing. And if you're ever in the South West, you'll be a most welcome visitor.

  3. Mummy, What a lovely post, and what wonderful pictures. In fact, I think the dress with the plimsoles has a rather Katherine Hepburn elan about it. So pleased your creative juices are flowing again - the restorative properties of turkey and snow-induced inactivity, perhaps. Miss you and much love, Dxxx

  4. Glad you're going again Wendy! Writing is a balance of input and output and it sounds as if you were completely exhausted by how much you put into the last book. Looking forward to the next - the titles great!
    XXX K

  5. Dear Creation Queen Laurel . Thank you for that. I went onto your site and blinked with delight at all the buzzing creativity there. wx

    Dear Boots - I like the notion of jump-start but I think I had to wait for a bit of petrol to gather in the engine to get the spark to jump start the engine... Best wishes for your writing and superb blogging year. I've only a very fleeting memory of the South West - on a brief flying visit as part of someone else's itinerary. I remember the Tamar Bridge. Of course I know it from its history and myths... wxxx

    Dear Licked Spoon
    Love the notion of KH elan. That's a new one. And lets just say it was the restorative properties of your cooking xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Dear Kathleen
    You will certainly receive a copy of the new one when it emerges - I so appreciated your clever review of THE WOMAN WHO DREW BUILDINGS earlier this year. Is it still anowing in Italy?



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