Daily Archives: July 11, 2013

Shedding Skin

The weather in Ireland for the past few days has been like this:

Image: startribune.com

Image: startribune.com

It is, in many ways, utterly wonderful – it’s sort of like everyone in my little green sponge of a country has been given a free holiday to the Mediterranean (well, besides we’ve all brought our work with us, which isn’t so good) – and it has lifted the mood of the nation a little. Of course, the sun coming out in Ireland means that a lot of people are going around with the ‘farmer’s tan’ – i.e. snow-white body, sunburned arms and face – and are doing crazy things like running across motorways in order to fling themselves bodily into the cool canal waters far below (I kid you not); generally speaking, though, the sun is a blessing, and one we badly need.

Because I am far more middle-aged than I really ought to be, however, perfect weather doesn’t mean crazy things, to me. As soon as I see the sun peeking out I immediately think ‘that’s great drying weather, right there. Let’s wash everything in the house, and get it out on the line!’ So, we’ve spent the past four or five days washing anything that can be washed, getting four or five loads of laundry done every day. Now, there are piles of clean and fragrant clothes everywhere, and I’m waiting patiently for the energy to put everything away again. That’s a struggle for another day, though.

However, we also had the bright idea of clearing out the wardrobe in our ‘home office’ (really a bedroom, awaiting its transformation into a home office. Bear with me); this wardrobe was, until the other day, jammed full of stuff that neither me nor my husband will ever wear again. The doors used to groan under the weight of clothes that used to fit me in my younger, slimmer days (let’s have a moment’s silence in memory of those blessed times), but now they groan no more. Every stitch of it has been washed, and dried, and now awaits a new future, via charity shop recycling. Hopefully, the clothes will bring someone else the same joy they brought me, and I’m looking forward to passing them on. Going through it all was sort of bittersweet for me, though, as it was like throwing out a whole different life, and each item of clothing was more than just a shirt, or a skirt, or whatever – it was a memory, and it represented my youth, and I remembered the life I had when I was able to wear these items of clothing, what I was doing, and my dreams for the future. Perhaps it’s because I look different now, or because I was much younger then, but I find it hard to even recognise that ‘other’ woman as being myself.

It reminded me a little of what I’ve been doing with ‘Tider’ over the past few days, too. I’m almost 12,000 words into the first draft of the reworked version already, and the words have been flowing, so far, with ease. The book is almost entirely unrecognisable from the first version; the only thing it has in common with the earlier book is that the character names are the same. The planning, and the work, and the effort, that I poured into ‘Tider’ (Mark 1) have not been wasted, as such, but all the words, and the dreams I had for them, are going to have to be jettisoned, and I’m gradually coming to terms with that. The older version of ‘Tider’ is like the outer shell of the story now, or a layer of shed skin, which falls away to reveal a new and hopefully better tale which had been lurking beneath it all the time.

Sometimes, this skin-shedding is painful. It’s hard to watch the dreams of another life pass away and fall into disuse; believe me, I know. It hasn’t been easy for me to put away the giant box-folder that holds ‘Tider’ (Mark 1), and tell myself I won’t be looking at it again for a long, long time – if, indeed, ever again. But something deeper than my hurt and disappointment is telling me that I’m doing the right thing, and that the story will be so much better for this extreme form of pruning, and that this story – the one I’m writing now – is what ‘Tider’ was always meant to be. I couldn’t have reached this point any other way, and so the layers the book is shedding are, in a way, more vital than anything else in its development process. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s true. Shedding skin, getting rid of excess, closing doors on the past, changing direction and going around new corners are what life is all about, and this is just part of that process. I’m embracing it as hard as I can!

Perhaps it’s fitting that my brain felt ready to tackle ‘Tider’ (Mark 2) at this time of year, when the sun is shining and the whole country feels new. It’s easy to feel positive and full of hope when the world is sparkling with happiness and everywhere you look you see a smiling face, and when inspiration is in the air.


Well, okay, so what's mainly in the air is pollen, and not inspiration, but you know what I mean! Image: treehugger.com

Well, okay, so what’s mainly in the air is pollen, and not inspiration, but you know what I mean!
Image: treehugger.com

Anyway. Even though we’re going to have fifteen hours of sunshine today – allegedly – I’d better get started on the work before any more of it passes me by. Happy writing, and happy Thursday, everyone!