There are times I look up and find the sky absent. The screen is off, no background to display. My hands immediately try to find the power button, encased in cardboard boxes filled with drippings of life. I suspect moisture is making the circuit trip up like a gangly teen with flapping shoelaces. But I can never bring myself to tear out the heart to have a look. Maybe I’m just too soft. Or maybe, there’s actually a part of me that enjoys the absence overhead.
Do you ever have those moments of delight
where something simple
yet unexpected happens?
Like when you think
you’ve harvested all the potatoes you planted,
only to be greeted the next year
by a fresh crop?
Or a plant you never knew
offers up delicate purple blooms overnight?
It’s these little things,
these pure moments of joy
that present the chance
to see life again.
A few months ago I picked up a very sword and sorcery style fantasy, a bit reminiscent of David Eddings’ work (I love his Belgariad series and have re-read it several times) and several other epic fantasies that I’ve read. Up til then, I’d mainly been reading middle grade or YA fantasy, which are also the genres I write in, so I though this book would make a nice change. What I didn’t expect, however, was for the sheer amount of detail in it – the type that makes a simple trip to the well seem to last an age because every flower, tree and creature is mentioned along the way.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact is generally expected in epic fantasy, I found it quite jarring and it took me away from the characters and the story. I think the reason is because the pacing between a middle grade book and an epic fantasy is very different, and I wasn’t prepared for that. The whole story seemed to take so long to tell, and, quite frankly, I wasn’t used to it. But I liked the main characters and was intrigued about where the plot was going, so I tried to carry on to find out what happened. Yet every time I looked at my bookshelf, I could hear the other books calling out to be read (well, not literally, because I’d be questioning my sanity if that were the case, but I think you understand that they were very appealing).
I started reading less and less, wanting to start something new but not wanting to ‘give up’ on the book I was trying to finish either. I was feeling low because I wasn’t reading as much, and I felt like I wasn’t doing the books justice by just letting them sit there on the shelf, or rattling around, dog-earred, in my bag. Then I got to the point where I wanted to do anything other than read, because I simply couldn’t get on with that book.
So I did finally put it aside.
At first, I felt bad. I hardly ever stop reading a book before the end (in fact, the only other book I’ve taken a break with is ‘The Silmarillion’ by J R R Tolkien – it’s not an easy read, so I need to fully focus on it to absorb the plot, something that’s a bit hard to do on the bus or during a break at work).
Then I read the prologue of the book I’d been waiting to read, which is a middle grade steampunk novel, and it was like someone tearing a hole in a plastic bag that happens to contain your world. I got a full lungful of fresh words describing new people, places and concepts, and for the first time in months, I want to read again.
Perhaps I should have changed books as soon as I knew the other one wasn’t pulling me in. Who knows? At least I get to visit exciting worlds again.
I’ve always liked plants, not just pretty flowers but trees and shrubs too. I find them very peaceful to be around – probably because they never talk back or complain. They just take their little piece of earth and sun and combine them to grow into curious shapes and sizes, sipping here and there at the rain and shying away from frost and snow. They inspire me a lot in my work, but I never really realised how much until someone pointed out that I have a forest or wood in nearly all of my books. After thinking about it for a while, I then discovered that the woods, forest and even singular plants featured in my books have a direct impact on the story – they’re used as a meeting place for characters, or they have special powers of healing and communication, they’re home to a whole race of people…I think you get the point.
Anyway, the point I think I’m trying to make is that our interests, however small, always seem to take root in our work, and that, in turn, can re-spark our interests when they dull over time. So, for me, it’s important to look over old works when I’m feeling uninspired, so that the things that inspired me then can inspire me again.