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Alarm call over creative writing bug

By Barbara Henderson

The early bird catches the creative writing time.
The early bird catches the creative writing time.

Summer is here. Sunshine arrives (in theory) and writing time disappears (definitely).

If you’re a creative type, chances are you are looking forward to making some real progress with your work at last, but alas, time seems to simply trickle away.

Our house will have a revolving door over the summer. Two long-term absentee daughters are returning, leaving and returning again. One will then head to university in Glasgow. Relatives from Germany are visiting. We will be calling in on the Outer Hebrides and various book events and festivals – and you know what? Even listing all of this makes me feel dizzy.

Where will the edits for my new book fit in? Ready or not, they will be touching down in my inbox this month. And the brochure for NessBookFest will not write itself either, will it? My stomach begins to form elaborate knots. When will I have head-space for the new project I’ve been dying to get stuck into? I need time to be creative!

I know I am not alone. Facebook is awash with writers and artists bemoaning the holidays. Every second post declares 'I just can’t seem to get anything done at all'. "Write in snatched time," advises one of my heroes, Katherine Rundell. But snatched writing only gets you so far.

Last summer was my breakthrough. Like many fellow writers, I have school-age youngsters under my roof who require feeding and driving. Not enough hours in the day and all that. But aren’t we lucky? Our home in the Highlands has delivered the solution, even if it took me years to see it.

My offspring are happy to sleep long into the morning, and yet the sun rises so early that you can conceivably thrash out 2000 words before anyone is any the wiser. I certainly would not describe myself as a natural early bird but last July I tried it, setting my alarm an hour earlier than normal.

Who knew? There is such satisfaction in seeing family members appear bleary-eyed and creased, when you have already completed a decent day’s writing. Even two or three days like this in a summer week, and I feel that I kept up my creative momentum. I can enjoy family downtime without frustration – the best of both worlds. And who needs sleep anyway?

But something other than sleep is essential: cake! Which brings me to a bit of a rant.

A brief pre-holiday trip to Edinburgh took me to a big bookshop on Princes Street which shall remain nameless. Books everywhere. I took my seat at the table. Lovely view of Edinburgh Castle, check. Productive and interesting company, check. Giant brick of blueberry Chelsea bun, ohhhh, CHECK!

I remained focused and content, despite discussing funding applications for two whole hours, and I didn’t fall asleep once. Coffee and carbs, I’m telling you, had a lot to do with it.

Where are our bookshops-cum-cafés in the Highlands, and in my city of Inverness? Leakey’s had one – and then it didn’t. Waterstones had one – and then it didn’t. Borders had one and then both shop and café disappeared.

Granted, the Highland Bookshop in Fort William has a decent coffee maker, and the central library in Inverness has a vending machine (I must be the only customer to have paid, watched my coffee brew and then be so mesmerised by the process that I was too late to actually take it. It disappeared behind its miniature sliding doors and I stood open-mouthed and helpless).

But I’d positively dance in the street if there was an actual café in a bookshop again. It’s the killer combo and I’d be astounded if I was alone in saying: I miss it!

Lily's Just Fine
Lily's Just Fine

Look out for: Gill Stewart’s Lily's Just Fine, out July 11. The backdrop of a gloriously summery Galloway serves this story well. Lily is the feistiest heroine I have met in a long time, and though it is marketed at teenagers, this book’s light-touch romance and compelling cast will win over many adult readers.

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