Wednesday 3 August 2022

St. Michael's Mount


Back in 2018, I visited St. Michael's Mount with one of my best friends, Kate. We grew up together here, in Cornwall, but she lives in the US now, so over the past 25 years we've gone from seeing each other every single weekday at primary school, to a couple of times a month when we went to different secondary schools, to once a year when she comes home for all too short visits. We like to make the most of it, which made it all the more annoying when she made it back for just one week this summer and I went and got covid for the second time.

Anyway, this is all to distract from the fact that it took me a full 4 years to finally edit these photos. In my defence, I took over 100 pictures this day and have managed to edit it down to just 20. Did that need to take 4 years? Who can say.

I have already uploaded these to Instagram and, to be honest, I have no idea if anyone even reads blogs anymore (is anyone there? Please say hello if you are!) but when I took these pictures I thought they were going to be a blog post, so it just feels like they should be.

This might be my favourite picture I've ever taken of Kate. She might not agree but I know for a fact that she doesn't read my blog so I can say what I like!

St. Michael's Mount can be accessed via a causeway at low tide, but it was high tide when we arrived so we got the little boat across to the mount. Thankfully, it did not set off my notoriously delicate seasickness, signalling the start of a truly excellent day!

The view through the window of the little cafe at the base of the mount, where we had very delicious sandwiches for lunch. Obviously, I can't remember what was in my sandwich now but I definitely remember that it was delicious, which is good enough for a sandwich I ate 4 years ago.

There are a lot of great windows in the house.

The view of the mainland from the roof of the house. By this point, we were having such a nice time that we had already started hatching plans so that we never had to leave. The problem is, a guide had already told us that everyone who lives on the island has to have two skills that can help the community, particularly because in bad weather, they can end up totally cut off from the mainland. Unfortunately, we're both rather low on skills, but Kate was already cooking up another idea. More on that later.

Kate enjoying our future home.

This tiny but beautiful sculpture of Michael fighting Satan is on the wall inside the chapel on the mount. As I was taking this picture, Kate was talking to one of the guides about whether or not the family who own St. Michael's Mount might happen to have two eligible sons of marrying age. The guide was very helpful but we ultimately decided marrying into the family probably wasn't a viable plan.

One last look. Obviously, we haven't figured out a plan to move to the island just yet but we'll return one day, and good luck getting rid of us again!

Seriously though, this was such a brilliant day and I highly recommend a visit to St. Michael's Mount if you've never been! We finished our day off with a swim in that gorgeous, turquoise water, St. Michael's Mount on the horizon, and it felt completely magical. I really did fall in love with this place and I can't wait to go again.

Friday 14 January 2022

Writing My Novel: The Real Second Draft

So, I wrote a first draft in 2015. Then, in 2016, I started and then abandoned a second draft. In 2017 and 2018 and every year since there have been short stories. Oh, so many short stories. There were also novel outlines. Oh, so many novel outlines. All for the same novel.

Now, we're in 2022 (even typing that makes me feel a little sick. Anyone else?) and finally, there is a second draft!

I started writing my New and Improved Second Draft in September 2019. There had been a few attempts before that but none of them took. In September 2019 though, I was ready. I wrote consistently, if not every single day, for about a month, and in that time wrote over 43,000 words. I felt pretty good about it. I really thought I would finish that draft before the end of the year.

Then, in October 2019, my laptop's battery died. After a stressful few days of third party batteries causing the laptop to shut down suddenly and at random (making writing on it into some kind of extreme sport that I was not brave enough to attempt) I accepted defeat and left my very old, very beloved laptop at an Apple store for a week.

An enforced break for a couple of weeks right in the middle of the draft. My momentum was knocked but I figured I'd recover it soon enough.

Then, I started getting gallbladder pains. I ended up in hospital, then on a diet that left me constantly weak, dizzy, and bad tempered for months on top of the pain, until finally, I had the keyhole surgery to remove my gallbladder, just in time. A few hours after my surgery, the UK government announced that all non-essential surgery would be cancelled to help hospitals cope with the rapidly intensifying COVID-19 pandemic.

I'll skip the next year of anxiety. Come to summer 2021. Nearly two years after I started this second draft, I finally felt ready to read through those 43,000 words again and try to finish the rest of the story.

I hadn't really written anything in a few months. I'm not very good at handling stress and thanks to, you know, everything, there had been a lot more of it to handle than I was used to. Perhaps that's why I suddenly found myself unable to write.

I would sit at my keyboard and stare at the page. Sometimes, I would manage to force out a sentence or two, but it felt like wading through half-set concrete. I've struggled with writing before, but it had never felt this physically difficult for so long. For weeks, I tried, getting more and more frustrated. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed a pen and a notebook.

Obviously, I've written in notebooks before, but I've always been primarily a keyboard writer, which was what made this block so unsettling. I managed to get a hundred or so words a day down in my notebook, adding them all to the Scrivener document every few days. I hated the slowness of this method but told myself again and again that a few, slow words are better than none all. Then, one day, after I had typed up the words from my notebook, I kept typing. The next day, I opened the Scrivener file and started typing without writing anything in the notebook first.

I finished my second draft in November 2021. It is 90,380 words long. It is still not very good.

This draft, it turns out, is not what I want this novel to be, but I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't finished it. Sure, it would have been nice to get to this place a little sooner, but there we are. The important thing is that now I know what I don't want this story to be, it should be a little easier to figure out what I do want it to be. Plus, writers are always saying it's important to finish things, and I certainly felt relieved when I finally finished this thing!

Now I just have to make sure I don't take an unexpected year and a half break in the middle of the next draft.