It’s a recurring theme in Mirren’s house. Should we listen to our bodies and effectively hibernate in the winter? Or should we push through, toughen up and get out there? We know what we’d prefer. And then along comes a hint of Spring and the lengthening of the days. We wake up with the light, start sorting out the garden implements, and look forward to walking home from work once the threat of being run over in the ‘gloaming’ has passed.
We’re listening to our bodies and doing what comes naturally.
When it comes to writing, the muse was hiding during the depths of winter. Banished by any reasonable excuse or pressing other engagement, or preferably an early night.
Diane, one of the main characters in our first novel, Eight of Cups, suffered badly from the ‘Winter Blues’, withdrawing from herself and her family and getting deeper into depression as the months wore on. Here she is in October 1999, entering a particularly difficult phase of her life.
The catalogue said “that if daffodil bulbs are planted by late October, then by March there will be a lovely display of yellow trumpets, all fresh and hopeful, announcing Spring’s arrival, whilst adding much-needed colour to the garden at this time of year.” The picture showing the daffodil scene was beautiful indeed. There they stood, pointy green leaves around strong, green stems bearing yellow trumpets, poking up in clumps through a large, green lawn. I resolved to buy some the next time I was near B&Q. The bulbs would go alongside the hedge, on the left-hand side of the garden. I would plant them to provide a daffodil accompaniment whenever I walked down the path the following March. That would be a lovely sight, I thought, something to look forward to.
The new hand trowel and fifty bulbs, still in the brown paper bag, ended up sitting on top of a kitchen unit, the one nearest the back door. They looked at me, and I looked back, every time I passed them to go out. I knew the bulbs needed to be planted, under the soil where they belonged, not stuck in a bag in a warm kitchen, in limbo. Yet the thought of going out there and digging the garden was completely overwhelming. I simply couldn’t muster the energy or enthusiasm. [ ]
All that winter, from the weakening of daylight in the second week of October, I had craved the sun, longed for Spring, ached for warmth. But when it came, it seemed to arrive too quickly, before I was ready for it. Under the influence of a few bright days in early April, the trees turned green seemingly overnight. A clever female blackbird had surreptitiously made her nest in the ivy and hatched her eggs to reveal three chirping gaping mouths on the constant lookout for sustenance. the noise irritated me day and night. The green shoots of the winter wheat were showing an obvious surge upwards towards the sun. Everything was growing, blossoming, bursting into new life.
I couldn’t bear the contrast with what was happening inside. My mood sank to new depths, my desire to stay under the duvet was almost overpowering. I shut my eyes to the brightness, pulled my cardigan tighter around my body to keep out the energy. My face echoed my inner feelings – weak, tired, despairing. The family didn’t know what to do. p.260
Poor Diane! Fortunately she finds a way out of this depression, with the help of a good doctor or two.
No matter how long or cold the winter, we know that Spring will eventually come, and our hearts lift when we think it has arrived at last.
Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows.
This week Spring has poked its nose out of the burrow and thinks it will try a little excursion in the bright sunlight, even though temperatures here in Perthshire are still in single figures. I am pleased to find that the desire to write has appeared again – but now it’s back to that perennial question – when to find time to write?
Mirren and Jones in their light hearted writers’ workshops include a discussion on The Five W’s of Writing a Book. We look at WHAT is your goal, WHO are you and how do you function best, WHERE will you do your writing, WHEN will you write and WHO are your audience.
If you’d like a copy of our simple questionnaire to help you answer your own personal five W’s, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Meanwhile, I’ll get started on editing my chapters of our now completed first draft of Never Do Harm. Mind you, that sunlight coming through the picture windows has certainly shown up the dirt. I wonder if I should begin my spring cleaning first! Before I do that and clear the decks for writing once more, I’m going to get in the mood by trying this quiz from the Guardian: Spring in Literature. See how you get on too!