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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Writing and the Dangers of Cabin Fever


Wednesday the 25th was a big day for famous literary birthdays. Robert Burns, William Somerset Maughan and Virginia Woolf all share the same birthday.  I saw one of Woolf's well known quotes, "A room of one's own" (well I spotted the 75% off sticker first) on a china mug in my local Waterstones. I snapped up the bargain as a wee gift for my good friend, the award winning novelist, Karen Campbell as she's been acting as my unofficial mentor for years and purple is her favourite colour.
http://www.karencampbell.co.uk/
I met  Karen for lunch in Glasgow yesterday and as always, it was great to catch up with her news and she gave me some really helpful advice about my WIP. As the saying goes,it's good to talk. Woolf was right, having somewhere to lock yourself away to get on with your writing is the ideal scenario but what I've discovered during this ridiculously long semester break is that I suffer from cabin fever. 
Classes finished at the end of November and it's been too long a break for me. I haven't yet reached for the axe but you only have to watch The Shining to remember how dangerous cabin fever can be...

I need to get out of the house regularly. The romantic idea of being locked away in a remote writer's garret is not for me. There's not a lot of inspiration to be gained from my view of the petrol station across the road! During the break from uni, I've been going to a botanical art class, swimming every other morning, meeting up with friends and working my way through a list of 'must visit' places. This week I went to GOMA in Glasgow to have a look round the polymath, Alasdair Gray's, 'City Recorder' exhibition. His paintings of Glasgow life in 1977 are brilliant. It's hard to believe that one man can be so talented in so many areas. It's not fair!


Gray has captured the life of the city's streets and its people
I also had a quick look round the GOMA's 'You, Me, Something Else' exhibition of contemporary sculptures. The idea of the exhibition is to question established assumptions of what a sculpture can be. It certainly achieved its aim as there is no way I'd call a stack of Ryvita boxes or a crumpled pile of plastic sheeting a sculpture! I'm sure all the artwork on display means something, but whatever it does, went right over my head. I wasn't alone in lacking appreciation for the artwork. A comment in the visitors' book read,  "I've lived in Glasgow all my life, so I’ve seen some shite, but this really is shite.” This wasn't the only derogatory comment and "shite" was a popular word choice!


Over the break, I've been writing short stories and everything I've written about recently has been triggered by observing and interacting. In my last job, I travelled all over Scotland to visit schools and train teachers. I met new people everyday and I now realise that I need people and places, not just a room of my own, to keep me inspired.



























1 comment:

Anne Glennie said...

Hi Helen,
Firstly I want one of those mugs! Secondly, enjoyed your post and know exactly what you mean about Cabin Fever! It gave me an idea for a new website www.writerswap.com where we could swap writing spaces and views of petrol stations for rugged landscapes! However, I do have one of these romantic, remote views - the bad news is cabin fever and procrastination are regular visitors there too. :D