My column for the April 2018 edition of the award-winning Tetbury Advertiser
Feeling depleted by the snowy weather, I decided to follow the advice of my friend Orna Ross, a teacher of creative thinking, to “fill the creative well”.
It felt like timely advice for me because my latest novel, Murder by the Book, begins with a murderer shoving the victim to his death down a disused village well.
I know Orna doesn’t mean that kind of well. Instead she is referring to the mental reserves that need regular boosting if you are to sail through life, contented and creative, rather than stumbling like an automaton on auto-pilot.
To replenish those reserves, she recommends a weekly “create-date” – an outing to be spent entirely on your own doing something fun. It doesn’t need to be an overtly creative activity, just something you expect to enjoy.
My Create-Date in Clevedon
So last week, on the slim pretext of needing to research a stretch of the M5 mentioned in my novel (the rest of the book is more exciting than that makes it sound), I made a solitary trek to the coast to visit Clevedon Pier.
The only Grade I listed pier in England, it’s an elegant, minimalist Victorian structure much more to my taste than the over-hyped high-tech one in Weston-super-Mare. It even met with John Betjeman’s approval: he described it as “the most beautiful pier in England”. Might a decent pier have saved Slough from the Poet Laureate’s famous condemnation? Oh, and a seaside location, of course.
At the pier’s admissions office, I asked the young man on the till the entry price. With the sweetest of smiles he told me: “As it’s International Women’s Day, to you it’s £1”. I assumed that was a concession, not a premium.
Water, Water, Everywhere
On my gentle, sunny stroll along the pier’s wooden boards, I especially enjoyed reading the tiny brass plaques embedded in its walls, conjuring up back-stories of the citizens they commemorate.
Afterwards, a wander around a charity shop in Hill Road resulted in my acquisition of some beautiful vintage piano music. I was beginning to feel as if I’d travelled back to the nineteenth century, especially when, walking back to my car, I spotted the most spectacular Art Nouveau drinking fountain I’d ever seen. Not quite a well, but I was pleased to see it was full to the brim.
Four days later, my personal well is overflowing, and I’ve been working like a demon ever since my return.
So I think these solitary create-dates may become a habit. And at least I’ll know I’ll always be in good company.
For more information about how to enjoy a create-date, read Orna Ross’s post here.
Murder by the Book, which begins with someone plunging down a well to their death, and which is set partly in Clevedon, will be launched at the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival on Saturday 21st April, and can be pre-ordered as an ebook already here. The paperback will also be available very shortly .