Did I ever say? I’m at UEA now doing the Creative Writing prose MA. I think it’s saved my life.
I feel almost as if I am convalescing from a long illness. Partly the illness was London – ugh! the poverty, the travelling, the all-at-once claustro/agorophobia, the soul-drain, the cruelty – and partly perhaps having a job that placed no value on me. It is only now I’ve left all that stuff that I can really see how desperately hard I worked all the time just to keep my head above water.
Yeah, this does feel like convalescence. It’s all very calm and gentle: I keep reasonable hours, and eat mostly good stuff at regular intervals. I read all the time and write all the time, and then I go to workshop/class and immerse myself in social interaction that leaves me feeling energised rather than exhausted. I don’t know when I last felt so intellectually engaged. Mind you, I am pacing myself: I could be working harder, and I think soon I will have to. Convalescence doesn’t last forever, it’s building a person up so they can go back out into the world, and I know I’ll need to do that soon. I can keep being kind to myself though.
I need to express how bizarre this feels, being taken seriously for possibly the first time in my adult life. I have been awarded a Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Trust scholarship, which means that people are paying money for me to have ideas and write about them. This is breathtaking when I think of all the museum punters who put valuable energy into grinding me under their heel (really, until you have done a public-facing role at an internationally- renowned museum you will never truly know how vile middle-class people can be, and how creative in their vileness).
I stopped writing short fiction for this blog because it became exhausting. ‘500 words,’ I’d thought, ‘that’s nothing.’ And yeah, it’s nothing when it’s 500 words of a bigger project. But creating a brand new self-contained world in 500 words, not to mention turning over an issue or getting to know a character is properly draining – I couldn’t have kept doing it while I was working on all the other stuff, no way. Also, that project was so bound up with my time at the museum that after I left I needed a break from it.
I have certainly not stopped thinking about material culture as a story-repository, but I need to take a bit of time to work out how to move that forward. In the spirit of nourishing my poor mind rather than wringing it out, I’m going to use this blog as a prompt-repository. At the moment I have “there’s a story in that” moments all the time. I’ll post them here and maybe embroider on them a bit sometimes, but I want this to be helpful to other people too. Don’t nick my writing, please, but take whatever idea catches your eye.