Here We Go!

Now: as it turns out writing about your own life and work is much harder than writing about someone else’s, so I’ve hired the FABULOUS Jacqueline Burns from London Writers Club to coach me through this new genre.

She’s already pulled off that wonderful trick of understanding what I wanted to do better than I did. It’s amazing to have someone to chat with about what this project could become, and how.

Because, of course, it’s the ‘how’ that’s the hard bit.

The premise of this book, the big idea, is how the words we read and write have the alchemical ability to both reveal the truth of who we are, and to create the truth of who we are.

It’s a reflection on memory, and how it can be changed over the course of many tellings, and how the way you tell a story determines what it means to you and the reader.

Easy peasy!

I’m kidding. Not easy peasy even a little bit.

Right now, I’m working on two fronts:

1. Free-writing about a large range of topics to dredge up all my memories and see how they might fit into the premise of the book.

2. Mapping out the book’s structure to start planning which chunks of writing need to go where, and how to weave a compelling ‘throughline’ that ties it all together.

Today I’m going to make a huge mess in my house laying out all the different pieces that need working in, so I should have some fun photos for you next week.

And since it’s time to go do that, I will leave you with a little chunk from earlier in the week that I hope will give you a sense of where all this is going.


Many are the writers who have no sense of their opinions, their own desires or fears until they set words to a page. I am squarely among them. My thoughts, it seems, are coiled tightly into the forest floor of my mind, like fern fronds in the black moments before dawn, unfurling only as the day’s writing starts to throw off warm light. This makes me terrible in arguments, as I can’t access my own reactions until I’m safely alone with a notebook. It makes me slow in making decisions, fretful until I’ve scribbled out all the scenarios and whittled away the chaff. It makes me a most imperious judge, verdicts handed down in ink, never to be scrubbed from the page.

But it makes me, too, a most intent observer and particular record-keeper. It creates an annexe to my memory, from which very few entries ever disappear. It makes me far more empathetic than I could otherwise be, and more honest. Enough time spent amongst the scribbled records of my life — and the lives of many others — is a humbling, equalising exercise. Write for long enough and the truth of anyone’s life takes form: their fears, their desperate hopes, their hurts and their triumphs. This naked study of an inner life (your own, or another’s), cannot help but draw out a deep and wild love, forgiveness, and a crystalline clarity about why we do what we do.

And this, I believe, is why writing is the enduring treasure so many people know it to be. Books have persisted a long 600 years, and will continue to persist, for the simple fact that their authors hold a mirror in front of us that no one else can lift. The role of the writer is to pull the reader out of the mire of daily life. They ask us, baldly, the questions we’ve not dared to put into words. They push us, shoving us along like bandits, towards change, towards growth, towards truth. The raw page hides, invisible in its fibres, a license to write our future, rewrite our past, and present to us a portrait of the universe into which we may paint ourselves. 

My world has been utterly transformed by the power of words. The great gift of my life has been the ocean of words in which hundreds, thousands of books have submerged me. Books, yes, but also the poems, the essays, the scraps, the whispers, the challenges, the ultimatums through which words have gushed. It is my hope, here, that the power of words will sweep you up too, into a transformation and a truth, both universal and your own.