Friday, 19 June 2009

Walking the Walk - Leslie Wilson

I thought I’d put in a picture of my dog Matilda, as it’s my first ever posting on this blog. This is because a) she’s a nice-looking animal, and b) she’s an invaluable tool for a writer. This morning I was supposed to be staying in waiting for the gas-man, and my husband took Matilda for her walk, but I just wanted to be out so much – and I was messing around in my mind, trying to work out what to write next in the current novel. It just wouldn’t come, so as soon as the man and the dog came in, I got my walking shoes on, much to Matilda’s delight – she couldn’t believe her luck, actually – and took her out again.
This was a good idea, because I sorted out the writing problem. It’s a first draft, and I think it’s terribly easy – for me, at least – to get bogged down in first drafts with: well, after this, what did they do?
If I was teaching a class of writing students, of course I’d be telling them to ‘think scenes’, and I do really know the answer, but somehow being in the outside, moving about, seeing the leaves and the flowers – it’s a really lovely place, where I walk my dog, one of those suburban parks that’s been let go wild, there’s a clump of heavenly yellow flag iris, loads of trees and hemlock flowering at this time of year, as well as all the brambles whose fruit I shall later on be picking for jam. Yes, now, where was I? Ah.
In the middle of a sentence that my English teacher at school would definitely NOT be happy with, not the way I’ve left it.
Where I lost the thread and went off into ecstatic description of the beauties of nature, was at what being there did for me. Perhaps it was the physical movement that got the movement into my ideas, too, because I thought: Well, what do I actually want to put in the next bit. The answer came at once: my heroine’s father. Who’s a bit hyper-active at this stage in the plot, actually, he always is. And then I remembered that the rather scratchy old grandmother hadn’t been mentioned for a while, and I’d been wondering where she’d come in – so I knew I could have her making comments on the father and putting the spotlight back onto him – and looking at my heroine and muttering about her mother, who she doesn’t like and keeps accusing the heroine of resembling.
So there it was, and then I met another writer! Not published, as yet, but fresh from an OU degree and thinking about a calling card script for television. She has a boy dog who looks very much like Matilda, and they frolicked around in the bushes, coming out at intervals festooned with foliage, while we talked about my novel, and her script, and what hard work writing is. But it does have the advantage that one can go out for a walk to solve the problems, a privilege only self-employed people have. Then it was back home and down to the keyboard.


Paul Lamb said...

I, too, have had plot problems solved in unlikely moments, when I'm away from my writing and just letting my mind take its ease.

Your walk sounds as though it was worthwhile on many levels.

Elen Caldecott said...

Your dog is gorgeous!

Nicola Morgan said...

Hi Leslie - not only do I identify with this, I also blogged about it here: - you'll find some neuroscience behind it there too!


Anne Rooney said...

Nicola's post on it is good, I remember it :-) I don't have a dog - indeed, I'm allergic to dogs - so I have to 'go to Waitrose' to get my walking in respectably. But it is the best way to work out plot problems or even come up with new plots.

Leslie Wilson said...

How interesting, Nicola! The scientific thingy I read didn't refer to space, so I was fascinated to see this. In taiji speak, the qi (chi) is better under trees, this is possibly because of the shade in a country that gets searingly hot in the summerm but possibly there's more oxygen there too. I did read in the New Scientist that they'd done some highly technical neurological tests that showed that switching off from a task actually helped you to find a solution, ie, proving the 'sleep on it' thing. I can't remember the details, just noted that I now had scientific endorsement for my method..
thanks, Elen, for the compliment to Matilda!