Things I wish I’d written #1

One of the nicer things about summer in the south is the craft shows. Take the car out to a field somewhere and watch folk doing amazingly creative things with odd bits of rock and large blocks of wood. And you know the best part? There’s always cake. Lots of it.

As writers we’re told that we should always carry a notebook to record flashes of inspiration as soon as they strike, but inspiration is often a visual thing, so I find a camera(phone) is just as important. Now I think about it, I actually take quite a lot of pictures at craft shows, not of the exhibits – the artists (ask them first, or at very least, buy something!) They’re such colourful people and are usually very pleased when I tell them I’m gathering characters for future novels. Their next question is usually, ‘I’m not going to die in the first chapter, am I?’ And of course, I don’t know…

Stone cutting by Fergus Wessel
Stone cutting by Fergus Wessel

A few years ago, I was at an event in Henley-on-Thames. I don’t remember much else about it, except it was raining, and I was wearing the wrong shoes. Anyway, tucked away in the corner of the field (quite far away from the cake), there was a stonecutting exhibition that was drawing a pretty big crowd, so, being the nosey sort, I went over to see what all the fuss was about.

And it was this. Definitely worth a few moments of anyone’s admiration, and not just because of the quality of the stone work. I’m not much of an artist, but I’ve always seen the similarity between writing and sculpture: You start out with something rough and then, over time, you chip away at it, cutting away the rough edges, polishing the uneven surfaces until they’re smooth to the touch. I imagine it was this notion of cutting away everything superfluous that drew Fergus Wessel to immortalise the words of An Orange Sleeve, taken from Garden of Bright Waters.

Again, I don’t know very much about poetry, but I know what I like:

  • Simplicity
  • Imagery
  • Rhythm

And I think these few short lines have it all: a whole world and a girl. A few short lines that inspired me to write an entire novel.

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