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Day forty-two

December 12, 2016

Well, here we are, dear largely uncommunicative readers. When I appealed a couple of days ago for suggestions as to what I should consider trying to write once the six weeks of the black dog diary experiment were completed, I had only two responses.

An old friend said she thought I should write about my mother. She’s suggested this before and I’m pretty sure I’ve told her why I cannot (as a long-term project at least) do this. Perhaps she doesn’t believe me.

Another friend, the sneaky island one who stumbled across this diary, said he thought, rather than pressuring myself to write fiction (the ultimate goal), perhaps I should consider writing an autobiography, as I’d had an interesting and, he thought, clearly challenging life.

I suppose it was a combination of those two suggestions that prompted yesterday’s entry about my mother’s ring.

An autobiography? Seriously? Who on earth would be interested in my life story? Yes, I know I’ve had a more interesting life than some people, but not that interesting. I’ve never done anything astonishing. I haven’t swum the English Channel or climbed Mount Everest. I haven’t discovered anything amazing. I haven’t triumphed over some terrible adversity. I haven’t survived some dreadful disaster. I haven’t (unlike my alter ego Tilly) covered wars and famine.

I don’t think of myself as extraordinary in any way. I am a woman of a certain age, who writes fairly well, who’s had a couple of adventures, led a couple of successful campaigns (and some not-so-successful ones), had some usually bad-for-me relationships along the way and is now living on an island with two cats, surviving on a pittance.

Who on earth would be interested in reading that story? What publisher would ever consider printing such a story? And, yes, that second question is the question. In my heart of hearts, despite early entries questioning it, I do consider myself a writer. But here’s the thing: Writers need to be read (or in the case of playwrights, their work needs to be performed). Otherwise it’s just literary masturbation. Well, it is, isn’t it?

Here’s the picture of my life I had in my head when I was in my twenties, how I ideally wanted it to unfold: I would become a successful novelist. I would buy and live in an absolutely lovely old cottage in an absolutely lovely little English village. There would be a perfect country pub within walking distance of the cottage. I would get up in the morning and start writing. If I was on a roll I would write all day. If not, in the afternoons (perhaps not in the winter in the rain) I would go for a walk in the lovely countryside with my lovely dog. (Yes, there was a dog and a cat in this fantasy.) I would come back, perhaps write a bit more. Most evenings I would curl up on the sofa with a good book – and in the winters, a roaring fire. Some evenings I would go to the pub and have a pint or two and chat with the locals. I would be known in the village as that novelist who lives in the thatched cottage in Lavender Lane (or some equally improbably named road).

You’ve probably already figured out what’s missing from this picture: a lover or partner or whatever you might wish to call my missing companion. (Never, ever in my mind was there a husband in my future.) Even in my twenties, I did not imagine anyone else sharing this idyllic existence with me.

I confess there was a point in my early thirties, when I was involved with a film editor, that I made an exception to this fantasy. I thought that perhaps, if he graduated to becoming a successful director whose filmmaking kept him absent for most of the year, that he might be allowed to spend the rest of the year in my cottage. (Note the description of it as my cottage, not our cottage.) This really was pure fantasy. For a variety of reasons, it could never, ever happen, but this was a man who for a time I really did love and, I suspect more importantly, the man with whom I’d had the best sex I’d ever experienced, so you can see why the idea of him popping in from time to time had considerable appeal.

Excuse me while I take a short detour here. The tempestuous nature of my on again, off again two year affair with this film editor led me to eventually put thousands of miles between him and me, figuring it was the only way I could ensure it really was over. That was when I moved to Vancouver in 1990. Although the relationship really was over, nearly two years later, I was far from over the relationship. That’s when I met Mike. I know that in my desperation to get over the other guy I allowed Mike to rush things along. It is true what they say: marry (or in this case co-habit) in haste, repent at leisure.

Anyway, anyway…

Here we are in 2016. I live in a lovely little house (which some might describe as a cottage, although certainly not the 18th century cottage of my younger self’s dreams), there is a great pub nearby (although sadly not  within walking distance), I have the cats (but not the dog), in the winter there is a fire burning (at least in the evenings). I know I have been able to write fiction here in the past, because I was sitting in front of this very window when I wrote the first draft of Unethical Practices and I was sitting downstairs when I wrote Rum Do. So, in a funny way, part of my fantasy came true. Be careful what you wish for…

The six weeks are up today. I succeeded in what I set out to do: Write something – anything – for at least fifteen minutes every morning for the next 42 days. Most days I wrote for at least an hour, sometimes two and on one occasion several.

I feel as if I should have some words of wisdom to impart in this last entry, lessons learnt from the past several weeks. I’m not sure that I have, but here are some random observations:

  • Attempting to tackle the black dog without meds is stupid.
  • Writing about some – if not all – of the challenges of living with Mike and putting this out there in (semi) public has been good for me.
  • Writing about my dead friend has left me missing him more keenly than I have for a while.
  • Exercising at the gym is simply not coded into my DNA. (But I will somehow persevere.)
  • Rehearsals do not count as having a social life.
  • People do genuinely care about me (something it’s easy to forget, particularly when the black dog is barking loudly).
  • Writing – the simple act of stringing words together into some form of at least semi-coherent thought, really is not difficult for me. (Figuring out how to turn this talent, if that’s what you’d call it, into a livelihood continues to be the big challenge.)

And here are a couple of general life (well, my life anyway) observations that were true before this journey began and are still true:

  • Being poor sucks. (No surprise there.)
  • Feeling fairly certain that no one is ever going to hold your hand or tickle your back again sucks. (How did my younger self not see that coming?)

The above may seem like a sad summary, but what can I say? Reality bites.

Tune in tomorrow. There’s a rant coming that’s been bubbling up for a couple of days, which I’ve put off because I wanted to concentrate on these last entries.

After that, who knows? If you’ve enjoyed the ride, got anything useful out of it, please feel free to leave a comment below.

For now, adios amigos.

From → Black dog diary

  1. krysross permalink

    Hey, it’s not that I didn’t believe you but I was going with the better out than in thing.

  2. Donna permalink

    Just wanted you to know I’m here, checking in – as I have been since you generously included me in the link to your blog. I wanted to respond to your question yesterday but I wanted to take a little time to think. What I want to say is this: your fiction writing is wonderful and I hope it will again be in your future because I know it’s something you want.

    But here’s the thing…you’re a writer. A damn good writer. And when you write about your own life you bring something very special to the table. Doesn’t matter if your life has been astonishing, or incredible (though some of it HAS, at least from my sheltered viewpoint!), whether you climbed Mt. Everest or swum the channel (ho hum – it’s been done and written about and I for one don’t care to read about that). The truth is, you know how to make a mundane event interesting. I’m thinking the creative non-ficiton genre may be calling you. Just my two cents worth 🙂 xoxo

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