You may recall that I have said this before â€“ writing is a solitary business. Even those writers lucky enough to have Commissioning Editors, Agents and all the panoply of a big publishing house behind them still face the problem that there is only one person who can write your book and, funnily enough, itâ€™s you. It took me quite a while to come to this obvious conclusion and, with each of my four books, at various stages of the creative process, I have fooled myself into thinking that I was making progress by lengthy mulling over the plot or the characters or by spending the whole day faffing about on Wikipedia when I should have been putting words on the page.
But the actual writing of the book is much harder than you imagine; the mood must be right, the Muse with you and the creative juices flowing freely and unless you have done it yourself, you cannot really understand the agony of it all. When it goes well it is exhilarating â€“ like skiing down a pristine black run with champagne in your veins â€“ but when it is going badly, or not at all, then you might as well stay in bed in your pyjamas and watch daytime TV eating popcorn for all the difference it will make.
How do we cope? How do we wrestle with our creative daemons? Cue the solution: the Writersâ€™ Group.
I donâ€™t know whose idea it was in the first place to get writers together to share their experiences but about eighteen months ago I was asked by Allison Harris to join her Ragleth Writersâ€™ Group and have found it to be a life saver. We meet for two hours a month and talk about our work over coffee and chocolate biscuits (the biscuits are important and necessary, see below).
It is truly amazing how much talent there is in South Shropshire and it is reflected in our Group as we are all writing very different things but our problems are much the same and it is a great support and comfort to know that there are others who share and understand our difficulties and often have suggestions for a solution. When I faced a big block in writing my recent book â€“ that is, I had started it but had not written anything on it for more than six whole months â€“ my colleagues kindly teased out the reasons for the block and elicited from me an undertaking to have the section I did not want to write written by the next meeting. This was a highly emotionally charged meeting for me and I needed several chocolate biscuits for medicinal purposes ,but it was effective as I knew that I did not want to go to the next meeting and admit failure. Tough love, but it worked. Check out the diverse nature of our Group on www.raglethwriters.co.uk
Book Review – The Wicked Wood – Hilary Jane Jones and Tracey Swain
Many years ago when I was a Corporate Lawyer, I visited Indonesia on business and met an ex-patriate Englishwoman of the stiff-upper lip no-nonsense type who had lived there for many years. I told her that I was disappointed in Singapore but found Indonesia exciting and was very surprised when this seemingly utterly conventional woman said â€˜Ah, yes. Indonesia is the sort of place where it is easy to believe in ancient godsâ€™. She was right and after my conversation with her, I too, was able to tune out the sounds of the modern world and tune into an energy and rhythm there which is as old as time. That same energy and rhythm is here in Shropshire, albeit at a slower tempo, in our beautiful hills and woodlands, fields and gardens and it has now been captured in a new book by Hilary Jane Jones and Tracey Swain whose â€˜The Wicked Woodâ€™ is a collection of Hilaryâ€™s poems chronicling a journey intercut with Traceyâ€™s photographs.
I know Tracey well as she designs the covers for my books and I have always admired her creative eye in that she is able to look at a scene and see something in it which eludes the rest of us; she has a talent for finding the hidden things and in this book she and Hilary, a Shropshire lass born and bred in Church Stretton, have woven a story which, for me, distils the essence of our very special part of the world where it is possible still to believe in fairies and woodland sprites, naiads and dryads.
The photographs in the book were all taken in Shropshire and the Welsh Borders and besides being truly beautiful in their clarity and composition are a tribute to the unchanged nature of this very special part of the country as seen through Traceyâ€™s eyes and interpreted by Hilaryâ€™s knowing words. The book challenges us to look at the landscape anew to see if we, too, can find the hidden things. Are you up to the challenge?
â€˜The Wicked Woodâ€™ is available as a hard backed book from Burway Books, Church Stretton and from www.briarridgebooks.co.uk
By J.A. Gordon
More articles by Shropshire based author J.A. Gordon:
J.A. Gordon â€“ Shropshire Writer in Residence
Discovering e-publishing and Tamara Drewe book review
The bane of Christmas Books and Living Life Without Loving the Beatles Review
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon talks about every writerâ€™s nightmare
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ rules for a good book
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon – The Loneliness of the long distance writer
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Where do you get your ideas?
Shropshire author J.A. Gordon â€“ Jeremyâ€™s tweet and the launch party
All about J.A. Gordon
Judith Gordon is a barrister and was an in-house lawyer and long distance commuter for twenty years before redundancy made her see that there is life after the corporate rat race. She moved to Shropshire in 2007 with her husband and adores the fabulous food and spectacular scenery although recent winters have been a bit of a trial. In addition to her writing, Judith is Strategy Director of face2face solicitors a national franchise. Judithâ€™s books are available online and from booksellers, see www.chroniclesofeternity.co.uk for more information.