My second book is waiting for the editor's verdict and I am in the glorious research period of the next. Nothing is set in stone yet, so my mind can range free over a multitude of possibilities. It's a great excuse to curl up on the sofa with a pile of good non-fiction books, a cat (hopefully) purring on my lap and a cup of tea on the windowsill behind me.
During this phase I seem to do a lot of daydreaming and free-thinking, writing down ideas on a large spider diagram, looking for concepts or characters that seem to fit together. I use my intuition in this "fitting together."
Research I'm doing at the moment is based around Spain at the turn of the sixteenth century, as I am fairly sure some of the next book will be set there, but I also have books on Stuart Cookery, The Lives of the English Rakes and The Book of the Sword on the go, as well as a great Taschen picture book on Alchemy and Mysticism. And that is only the top of the pile. So how does all this input become output?
For me, one of the answers is meditation. I have been a meditator for more than 30 years. Those of you who are thinking I have this meditation-thing taped after all this time would be mistaken - it is still a discipline to sit, and to still the mind every day, and not to jump up going "I must get on with the writing/washing-up/filing/whatever else needs doing."
But the length of practice means I know from experience that it is the antidote to the chock-a-block mind, that it provides a creative space for the less obvious to appear. Whilst the thinking mind is working out things on the surface, the meditative mind perceives the undercurrents, the subtleties, maybe not even the things I can instantly put into words, but the sense of direction of the ideas I am working with, what I sometimes call the "true north" of where I am going and what I am doing.
Many other writers have a repetitive activity such as running or swimming that they use to quieten the mind. Others use the process of writing itself. There must be thousands of people writing the recommended "daily pages" of The Artist's Way, in order to put themselves in touch with deeper aspects of themselves. For most writers, writing itself uncovers the self, and because of this it can feel as if you are baring the soul.
I am lucky that I know a group of other women who meditate and once a month we get to each other's houses to sit in silence together and then have tea. We are of all different persuasions, christians, buddhists, quakers, atheists, not-quite-sure's, yet we find a value in this silent coming together. When we sit in silence it is as if we contact all the other silences - for silence is silence, is the same silence.
This is one of the reasons I chose to write about the Quakers, as sitting in silence is their core activity.
The picture shows some of the women's meditation group at the launch of The Lady's Slipper outside Townend. I'm the one in the middle!
For those beginning writing and interested in meditation and the process of writing I can recommend "Writing Your Way" by Manjusvara and "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. These books contain a wealth of ideas and exercises to get you started, and are a great resource for Creative Writing tutors.
Word addict, book addict. Nature, art and poetry fan, and writer of thought-provoking historical fiction, published by Macmillan/St Martin's Press/Endeavour Press
Creative writing tutor and writing mentor.
HIGHWAY TRILOGY BOOK TWO - based on the life and legend of heiress and highwaywoman Lady Katherine Fanshawe
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HIGHWAY TRILOGY BOOK ONE 'Terrific' - Gabrielle Kimm, author of His Last Duchess
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A DIVIDED INHERITANCE 'stellar historical fiction' - Orange nominee Ann Weisgarber
THE GILDED LILY 'There is no greater compliment than 'Give me more!' Susanna Gregory 'Beautifully written and meticulously researched, the novel drew me straight into the teeming streets of Restoration London. an addictive, page-turning read.' Mary Sharratt
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THE LADY'S SLIPPER 'Top Pick!' RT Book Reviews 'Highly recommended.' The Historical Novels Review 'Brilliant saga' Romance Reviews Today 'Rich and haunting' Reading the Past 'Riveting narrative' For the Love of Books 'Complex and engaging' Bookgeeks 'Utterly captivating' Karen Maitland, author of The Owl Killers