The magic ink is out-of-stock


Sometimes our dreams offer a lot more than mere rehashing of a day’s events, and give us valuable clues to what is going on deep in our unconscious. The following dream may well be of interest:

I dreamed I had gone to an expensive and swish sort of hotel for some sort of conference. One of the first things I managed to do was lose the key to my room; one of those, “I’m sure I put it in my handbag” moments of frantic rummaging around, until it seemed unimportant so I went through to the main conference room. It was like the vast dining rooms you see in Oxford and Cambridge colleges and it was filled with tables laid out with all sorts of wares for writing, from marvellous machines, exquisite journals and notebooks, pens of a thousand thousand kinds from the usual Bic biros to fabulously expensive Mont Blancs, and quills and dipping pens of many types. I knew I had come to find the most exclusive inks in the world, also the most expensive, but as I searched table after table, it became clear I was too late and they’d sold out. I found a sheet of creamy white paper, the kind that is made by pulping cloth, and looks rather like parchment, and a quill pen, and started trying to write, but no matter how many times I dipped my pen in the ink, the page remained resolutely blank because the ink was not the magic ink I’d come to find.

Regular readers of this blog will know (and perhaps share) my obsession and love for stationery, and may well be familiar with my long struggle to overcome something that is generally referred to as Writer’s Block (but before anyone starts kindly suggesting exercises or websites or, God forbid, apps, the term is used very loosely and it’s something deeper and darker than what the term is usually applied to).

The dream speaks of my fear that I have somehow arrived too late at the table, despite the fact that as I went round table after table looking for the ink, I was almost the only person present. In terms of the writing/publishing industry, I wasn’t first at the feast but I jumped in reasonably early in the day, with the first (paperback only) edition of Strangers and Pilgrims being published early in 2010, and the first (and flawed) Kindle edition about a year or so later. But the magic of those early days is gone, heaven only knows where, if it ever truly existed at all. With it has gone my confidence of creating anything worthy of the fine paper I tried to write upon in my dream.

Anyway, I’m going to keep on trying. Confidence is a thing easy enough to fake; I’ve been doing it my entire life. I’ve always said that in certain ways the I that is conscious is not the writer of the stories, but the unconscious I is the real creatrix. When I draw upon the deep, dark, hidden levels, that’s when the stories start to flow, dipping into my own veins to use the inner ink.

Dry #smallstone 10




I’m bone-dry

Not a word left

That I need to write

Beauty and interest

Surround me

And fail to touch.

There’s a wall

Bricks of anxiety

Mortar of fear

Behind it, words hide

Trembling with fright

At their abandonment.




I’ve been working very hard the last few weeks, teaching and touring with my students and I’d forgotten  quite how exhausting I find it and how much it takes out of me. While I haven’t taught all day every day, I usually come home and the first thing I have to do is prepare the lesson for the next day. It’s hand-to-mouth stuff, responding to both the requests of a class and to what I have observed they may need. There’s not a lot of me left over many evenings, and that tends to be taken up with dealing with family needs of one sort of another. I’m not exactly a workaholic but to be honest, if I do something I like to do it properly and no stint at it, so I undoubtedly do more than I am paid for at work, for the sake of both professional pride in a job well done and for the students. Today I said goodbye to the class I have taught for the last 3 or so weeks. I cried a tiny bit too. They got cookies and brownies, though.

I’m finding it hardest at this time of year to find that delicate balance between allowing my creative self to flourish and putting her into a state of suspended animation until the summer is over. Some evenings, if I have been home by lunchtime, I have been able to write for a few hours. The trouble with this is that like any delightful experience, I don’t want it to end and then am unable to get to sleep at a sensible time to allow for a 6am start the next day.

Now the sheer tiredness is starting to take over. I went to give blood last week and discovered that while not fully anaemic, I was close enough for them to send me away without taking any blood. I have had a few other health niggles and now, I have one of those annoying colds that is just hovering there, making me sneeze and giving me sore sinuses.

Creatively, I am stuck too. There are ideas there but they are too nebulous to really focus on and I suspect a self-protection mechanism is stopping me. The number of visitors here has dropped to a low number and I feel like a sea- going vessel that relies on the wind, when the wind suddenly drops and the sails go slack and empty.


I’m sitting in a silent sea, with nothing but seagulls for company and no wind in my sails.

What to do? Well, blowing into the sails is a rather futile gesture and weather magic is unpredictable, so this is what I propose to do:

I shall sink anchor, see to some housekeeping aboard my boat and hunt out my fishing rod. I’m going to just slump on deck in the sunshine, see what bites and just wait. I may even go swimming.

You can’t fight the weather any more than you can fight the internal  doldrums. Maybe it’s time to enjoy some down time. God knows I am about as flat at the ray below!

Guest posting

I have contributed a guest post about the creative life over at Journey of Life found at the link below:

I’m rather proud of this one so please go and read and comment too. I hope it helps explain the hiatuses in the life of a creative soul and perhaps some clues about the whys.

Procrastinator extraordinaire

…that’s me!

I’m back at work this week, from tomorrow and I can’t face doing any of the things I need to be doing right now. Some are hanging over me from weeks(or months) back and are getting more urgent. I have scary form for the Department of Work and Pensions to fill in and despite being educated and articulate, I find forms so scary. I inched one step closer to dealing with it today by locating the file that contains the information I need to fill the form in. That’s due by the end of this month. I may make it.

I’ve also got phone calls to make regarding getting an allotment to put our bees on; again scared to do that. I really don’t enjoy talking to strangers over the phone about something I know may be a little complicated. And they may say NO even though we have a legal right to have bees on an allotment…

I need to pick up the dog’s medication from the vets at some point today; there was fresh blood in her water bowl this morning again. I’m not sure if I ought to get her more anti-biotics too. There are two receptionists; one is very good and the other reminds me of a Macdonald’s thick-shake : sweet, but too thick to be good for anything. If I get the good one, I am happy that the meds I get given are what Holly is supposed to have….The other receptionist usually tries to put my credit card in the wrong way. ‘Nuff said.

I’ve got household chores(including last night’s dishes) to do.

I have a stack of new notes for London to download and print out so I can read them thoroughly before Saturday. I have my notes for Paris later this month I need to read through and memorise, not to mention the itinerary. I have also 4 hours of teaching to prepare for, for tomorrow. I also have the same for the rest of the week but that has to wait until I get a handle on my students. There’s not point in planning a week of teaching till I meet them; I’ve made that mistake before and it sucks. I end up with a week of lessons I can’t use.

I’ve also got to locate my swimming costume, plus leggings, t-shirt and old trainers for this dip in the environmental tank. I’m so not sure of this activity; my boss says it’s meant as a fun one but I need to be convinced.

To get a lesson sorted for tomorrow means domestic archaeology. Apart from one rather pointless morning last month, I haven’t taught since September and all my files were decently buried under my desk, in no special order and I need to get them all out and have a look at what I can use that is adaptable enough to cover almost every possibilty for this group. This could result in a papering of the floor of my study. I also need to dig out some decent work clothes and make sure they are presentable; I’ve been living in jeans now for months, and polar fleece jumpers. I’ll also have to figure out how to tame my hair enough so they don’t think I am the wild woman of Borneo.

What I really want to do is quite different. And it frustrates me because I have had months of emptiness where few words came and where my head resounded to echoes of old stories but nothing new was being born. I had months of doing nothing outside the home(or very little) where I could have spent every day bashing out stories on the pc. It choses now to return to me when it’s not just a matter of carving out time from a busier daily schedule but a more vital one of how my spirit metamorphoses into something quite different from my easygoing and kind persona into something harder edged and slightly dangerous(I say slightly; I can’t guarantee this as it hasn’t been fully tested) that lives with more than half its consciousness in other worlds. I have a foot there at most times but when I am really writing, more of me is absent than is present.

I began a new novel a few days ago and though I haven’t a clue where its going yet, the feeling is it’s actually going somewhere and I’ve been able to exceed my daily target of words and that hasn’t happened for a long while. I’ve got two others on the go but with each of them it’s been like pulling nails from a packing case using my teeth: hard work and not a lot to show for it. I get a feeling that the unlocking of the new novel is triggering and unblocking of the others.

Why, when I had all winter with nothing much to do, does this happen now, when I know I will have less time for it? Not only that, the person I become when I write really takes no prisoners, takes much less s*** and is generally not such a nice person.

edit: I got down to the kitchen to start the dishes to find my wonderful husband had already done them, despite the fact that he cooked last night. One less thing to worry about!

Have I procrastinated myself into a real corner here?

The Peach Tree

I woke up this morning remembering the peach tree in Ely.

I’ve lived in many places in England over the years but from 1997 to 2003 we lived in a small village in the heart of Norfolk. England is a small country but within it, each area is very distinct and different from each other and Norfolk is famous for a number of things: being totally flat, inbreeding and the Broads. I grew up in East Anglia so the flat landscape has always been a familar one to me. We currently live in a town that is referred to as The Gateway to the Broads and for those who don’t know, the Broads are a watery landscape of slow moving rivers and marshes, very popular with boating holidays and nature lovers. I’ve only ever been on the edges of the Broads; the landscape and the type of holiday it promotes has never appealed to me.

When we lived in Norfolk, the village we lived in was so small there were only about 300 people eligible to vote, our nearest shop was in the next village two miles away and the nearest town was almost seven miles away. It was very peaceful and a good place for my daughter to grow up. Living so far from any sort of civilisation meant that you had to plan shopping and things like dentists and so on, as well as keep a fairly well stocked pantry and freezer. Our nearest town was the little market town of Downham Market and for most things, it sufficed but if you wanted anything a bit more exotic, you had to got further afield to King’s Lynn, Norwich, Swaffham or Ely. Ely was about 20 miles away, all through the Fens and at one time before the draining of the Fens, much of this landscape was waterlogged and impassable for the winter months. The Romans began the draining of the Fens and it continues to this day with a landscape of ditches and dykes cutting across the countryside and making it useful farm land. Once, prehistoric forests covered the land before being swamped and lost; bog oak is hauled up every time some farmers plough and a friend used to use my Landrover to go and collect loads of iron hard ancient wood (like ten thousand and more years old)for her fire, that had been ploughed out and left for anyone who wanted it at the side of the road. It took days to saw into manageable chunks and the wood burned very slowly and gave off both heat and a weird blue light as it burned.

It was a lonely life in some ways. I’d not got into the Internet when we first moved there and indeed, even when we left we were still on dial-up. So a trip to Ely, my favourite of our local towns was a treat we would enjoy and extend beyond whatever business we had. My husband used to take me on his day off, and we’d often have a pub lunch. On  Saturday there was a superb Craft market(Thursday was ordinary market day) that meant you could find interesting clothes and so on.

Our favourite pub was quite unpromising until you found the garden. It was just a fairly ordinary pub, about ten minutes walk from the Cathedral and it was only the notice that announced a secluded pub garden that drew us in the first time. This was our summer pub; we went to another in the winter, within a short dash from the Cathedral. The garden was lovely; well tended but not overly manicured and the food was nice standrad pub grub, not expensive and not too fussy.

One of the lovely features of the garden were the trees. Whoever had orignally planted the garden had chosen well; smaller trees that would not shade too much but give dappled shade in the summer heat. One tree attracted me greatly because my own had recently died; a peach tree. Mine had been in a pot, so it could be moved in harsh winters, but it had been attacked by a parasite and had succumbed.

One day in late summer we had lunch at the pub and the peach tree we’d seen bloom so marvellously in the spring was so laden with ripening fruit is seemed impossible. Pound after luscious pound of golden peaches hung from the boughs; the tree seemed to be groaning with the weight of its fruit. It’s rare for a tree like the peach to bear much fruit in our cold and unpredictable climate and I commentd on it to tha landlord.

“Oh yes,” he said. “It’s always been very fruitful, that one.”

He didn’t seem to think anything of it. That was our last visit of the summer and it was mid spring before we were back and I had a shock.

The peach tree had been pruned to almost nothing. Stumps of its branches remained, sprouting leaves but nothing more, I was horrified and I asked about it.

It turned out that the previous year when the tree had been so laden, it had been too heavily laden and the main branches had been beginning to split and break off with the sheer weight of fruit. A tree surgeon had been called in and had recommended drastic action. Amputation of the major branches was the only thing that was going to save the tree from literally splitting itself in two. This had been done and the tree, though looking sorry for itself did seem to be recovering but it would be some years before it would be able to bear fruit again. I’ve not been back since 2003, when we left the area and I do hope the tree has begun to bear again.

Sometimes it’s possible that we bear too much fruit from our creative lives, so much it drains and exhausts us. Perhaps this explains things like burn-out and writer’s and artists’ blocks. We have maybe given too much away and need to draw in our energies and let our strength build for future efforts.

I wrote 8 novels in four years. Maybe it’s time I allowed myself some rest  and stopped expecting myself to be able to work like a machine and churn out stories constantly. Maybe it’s time, like the peach tree, I was given the space to recuperate from being so very, very fruitful.

Unblocked (well, maybe…)

I decided to follow my experiment through and see if I could just let myself write without having to think through everything first, and just work instinctively. I’d had a sketching/painting session at Burgh Castle and I’d been fine until a couple of dogwalkers decided that ten feet away from where I’d set up my stool and my materials was a great place to race their dogs and chat very loudly about nothing terribly much. OK, I’m not Rembrandt or Turner but it was clear I was concentrating and once my concentration was broken, the whole picture failed. I was mildly annoyed much as you are with people who whisper and rattle sweetie papers at the cinema. It’s not worth getting ANGRY about it.

So I shut myself up here and started a whole new chapter of the novel I’ve been picking at for ages and just let it shape itself. I’m quite pleased with it and having started with that thousand and two hundred words, I feel as though it’s begun various trains of thought and ideas that maybe enough to get the whole thing flowing again. The trouble is one tends to want to wait until a whole plot/characters/scenes etc are present and then begin, whereas in fact much of it only unfolds once you take the first steps. I’m reminded of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (one of my favourite movies) where he has to find an effectively invisible bridge; he must step out in faith that it IS there. I must write out in faith that the whole story is there and like an archaeologist I must uncover it a bit at a time.

Someone buy me a trowel and a brush please!!! Oh and the sexy leather hat and the bullwhip would be nice too!

The Secret People

I’ve written a few poems today but it’s kind of in lieu of anything more meaty. I found some stuff in a notebook and it made me think about the whole process of where ideas come from. I’ve put a bit of that over at:

But then words started spinning in my mind and the following was the result. I don’t tend to go for rhyming couplets but it just happened like that, so…


The Secret People


The Secret People are inside my head

The Secret People wait beside my bed

They wait until I fall asleep

Then climb right in and dig in deep

Their voices whisper the whole night long

They tell me stories, they’ll sing their song

Yet when I wake and open my eyes
Their tales are just elaborate lies

Sound and fury and nothing more

And yet they thrill me to the core

Inspiring me to write their words

Before they fly like frightened birds

The Secret People are inside my mind

But the Secret People are never kind

They’ll use me as their living tool

To write their stories and be their fool

Until one day I’ll wake and see

The Secret People have fled from me

The Block

A while ago, I did a guided meditation to the Well of Wyrd, and part of the meditation was receiving a gift.

That gift was a wooden block, a cube of wood.

I mused over this for some time; various people made helpful suggestions and then I forgot about it.

Now I don’t have a terribly sophistocated subconscious. It tends to prefer the obvious, in case, being  a bit thick at times, I might miss the message. I played word association with it and got nowhere.

So for the writer, what is the obvious association of the word, “Block”? Easy. Writer’s block.

I don’t deny I am blocked right now. Writing a blog is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy; the odd stanza of poetry ripples out from time to time. But the real work, the racing narrative that fills my head and peoples my imagination with real living breathing sweating beings, has gone. I’m dead inside. 

What I really cannot work out, now I understand what the gift actually is, is how on earth a block, a wretched Writer’s Block can be a gift at all. Unless my subconscious is playing games too clever for me(Gift being German for poison, but German being my fourth or fifth language) I simply can’t see how this could be seen to be a gift at all.

Unless the universe or God or whatever is actually a sadistic entity with a rather sick, slick sense of humour, that is.

If I were feeling a tad more chipper, I’d think of a positive metaphor, something about whipping out my Exacto-knife and whittling that block into something more useful. But both a decent metaphor and the enthusiasm to use it are eluding me right now.

So the closest I can think of is to regard that hopeless lump of wood as a doorstop, to wedge open some metaphysical door a little so I can maybe come back and peer through when I’m ready. I’m only hoping the door doesn’t magically become tiny in the meantime. I look enough like an antiquated Alice to worry about that and avoid giant caterpillars smoking dodgy substances. Right now, any caterpillars ought to guard their hookahs with great care….