After writing the previous post on this blog, I could no longer ignore what has been gnawing away at me for the last two months, ever since I started work on the new Finistère guidebook. Raising the perennial problem of guidebooks (where the good stuff that digs beneath the surface gets cut and only the basic facts remain) made me finally face up to the most important basic fact of all. I do not want to do this any more.
My last book, Brittany – a cultural history (Signal Books, Landscapes of the Imagination) at least allowed me the luxury of arguments and issues to the extent that overall word and page count would permit, and now there is no way back to the more constricting, prescriptive format of conventional guidebooks, the need to conform to expectation in terms of sites and coverage, to reader profiling and in-house styles.
I need a more creative process, a focus on my landscape writing, whether or no a book in publishable form emerges. I need to work from the inside out and not vice versa. I need to give more time to other things and other people. What I no longer need is to sit at my computer for ten hours a day or travel under frustrating pressure of collecting and regurgitating information in a limited timescale. So I have reneged on an agreement for the first time, something quite against my normal instincts, and in doing so have made a major change in my life.
Walking in the early evening today, the debris of frozen hailstorms still lingering on the rocks in the forest, I felt a sudden sting not of panic but hesitation and uncertainty. What on earth will I be doing at 9 o’clock or 10 or 11 tomorrow morning? I have worked so hard for so many years on a clear progression of full-time, demanding writing projects (usually fired by economic imperative) that I’ve forgotten the sense of freedom that accompanies true creativity.
A minute later, the last ray of a previously veiled sinking sun flashed through the skeletal trees right into my face, lighting a golden path ahead. It was a simple reminder of alignment, of the beauty of doing the right thing at the right time. Whatever I do tomorrow morning will be new and exciting and worthwhile, even if it’s only sleeping in for a change…