Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Stevenson, Rankin And Galbraith

It was wonderful to slide under the sheets last night - and Gail wasn't even there! I could feel myself cool down, my neck muscles relax and my forehead loosen. I seem to get tensed up sitting at the laptop for so long; lost in concentration and unaware of what else is happening. It's good when it happens, but it's hard work.

I'm not complaining though. I ended up watching a film in bed. Ewan McGregor and Nick Nolte in Nightwatch. It's not one of either actor's top-raters, but it was an eerie thriller with some good suspense throughout and plot management so it was enough to make me want to watch it all. McGregor showed a side of his acting I’d not seen before; playing an easily manipulated, naive character with hidden depths of courage. A bit like Jackie McCann, which is why I think I watched it to its 2 am conclusion. (Sorry Brenda!)

This morning I slept through my alarm. I woke to Laura standing in the room shouting at me to answer the phone. It was Gran wanting to know when I was bringing her round. We got her bags packed and I took her over then returned to an empty house. How glorious!

I've been doing all the laundry while Gail's gone. Normally she doesn't allow me to do the clothes washing but she forgets I lived alone for four years. Her reason for banishing me from the washing machine is because once - just once! - I neglected a red sock jumbled with the whites (mostly Laura's school uniform) and, well, I always liked pink. So much for three strikes and you're out.

So in between tasks yesterday and today I have been working my way through the whole load. There were 7 loads of washing in total to get through, dried and put away.

Ideas for short stories, poems and Hunting Jack are flowing through me. I realised last night that with me having to re-send my Ed each week's publication issues, I am able to see what issues all my subscribers are on. Someone next week is getting issue 52! That's only 6 behind! Not only that, but if the Editor cannot receive new issues, I could be in a position of sending her e-mails, for new issues, for immediate publication. Better get ma finger oot!

I stopped mid-way through a day of writing to watch a documentary about Robert Louis Stevenson. It was fascinating and rang some familiar bells concerning the problems of coming to terms with being a writer and the agonising journey you let yourself in for.

It started talking about his father's desire to have him follow into a life of engineering (the family was responsible for building lighthouses around Britain, ALL of which still exist AND in use!) and of the moment he told his father he wanted to be a writer.

They spoke to Ian Rankin (on top of Calton Hill by the look of it) who said, "there comes an epiphinal moment in every writer's life when they must decide if they want to follow their dreams or not". Talk about nail on the head!

It showed Stevenson living in Edinburgh's salubrious New Town, yet going to the slums of the Old Town to write and gather material for his writing. His nanny would tell him stories about Burke and Hare, Scottish Historical events and what they did to murderers; tales that would inspire him in later years.

Discovering his approach to gaining inspiration from Edinburgh's streets made me think of this town in quite a different light, yet what I see when I am out and about remains the same. Only a few weeks ago I was wandering around the back streets myself, researching dodgy locations and the possible movements of Jackie for my own story.

There is so much I can do with this town, and while I already am with Hunting Jack and other stories, I still want to do more. I want to explore this town the more it reveals its history to me. Yet one question bothers me; why do we not get more writers from Glasgow? Why has Glasgow not inspired more writers such as Edinburgh? This is one of the things I love about HJ - the combined Glasgow/Edinburgh element.

Rankin also compared the problems Stevenson faced to his own life and thus to the wider writing community. He said, "Every writer shields themselves from the world. They say to themselves, 'I know I am good, and I’ll keep on trying until YOU know I am good'." I think every serious writer I know feels exactly this way.

He also spoke about how "authors take things for their characters from anyone and everyone around them," and how Stevenson surrounded himself by the lower classes of Edinburgh to gain material. My notebooks are full of things and people like that and suddenly I don't feel so daft pulling out my notebook in the middle of the night, or going to the toilet in a bar to scribble an idea.

The program revealed how Stevenson struggled with the novel-length format. How he hit writer's block during Treasure Island, and how the sheer length of a novel frustrated him no-end. Jekyll and Hyde almost drove him mad, in this respect.

Rankin also talked about, "stories being channelled to a writer through the soup of their subconscious minds." And how "Stories come to writers at any time, just as you fall asleep, in dreams, sitting in a cafe - whatever." Which is the reason I carry my notebook. Vindication, if I ever needed it

As a writer, I found the connections made in this program fascinating, and in a way, liberating. Ian Rankin sounded like he was comparing Stevenson's issues and mentality as a writer and trying to convince the viewer this is still the case for writers today - including himself. Listening to Rankin talk about himself in contrast to Stevenson, the validation I feel makes me feel very much a part of a Scottish tradition of literature, and very, very inspiring.
Colin 11:05 am


Add a comment