Tuesday, 26 April 2016

How to be a Writer in Residence. Erm? - Eloise Williams

I took up my post as Writer in Residence at Oriel y Parc in St. Davids, West Wales a week ago.



Hurray again!

*Cue tumbleweed*



So I know what a WiR is (WiR is how it’s written by people who know stuff about stuff btw) sort of… erm…


I turn up at a vast and empty room with my laptop in my sweaty hand, smiling inanely at anyone within a twenty mile radius and showing willing by introducing myself to EVERYONE whether they wanted to be introduced to me or not.


I have never been cool or at ease with myself in any capacity so sitting in a room - where they usually have Artists in Residence filling the space with beautiful paintings or innovative art - by myself with a computer, half a packet of polos and an effort-at-a-diet bag of fruit and nuts would have been more than a bit mortifying for me. What if someone came in to chat? EEK. What if someone came in to ask me what a WiR does exactly? Double EEK.

I ducked out into the storm which had just blown in from the Irish Sea on a previously crystal clear day and walked the town searching for Writing Inspiration and trying to look like a Writer. Or anywhere near someone who wasn’t a complete out and out cowering Non-Writer of the worst and weirdest sort.

The bookshop, my haven, my sanctuary, my place of cheer and comfort in a cruel, cruel world, was closed. The library was closed (please see the government for more information). The Cathedral in all its gloriously hailstone lashed beauty was open but the knelling bell made me sway away from the cavernous mouth beneath the devilishly smiling gargoyles. I half expected lightning to strike me down and a coven of witches to turn up, convince me to walk into a big wicker man to keep dry and strike a match…

I am ashamed to say I was more than a bit of a wimp and having bought two scarves in the local charity shop (to give myself more of a writerly air) I came home and whimpered to my husband, who empathised and cwtched, and my dog who told me to grow the hell up and stop being a complete blouse. Or barks to that effect.


Being a writer is a constant test for me. I thought I’d be ensconced in a lighthouse making an absolute fortune whilst occasionally taking trips to London to do some shopping, not a person who is always having to put myself out there, talk to people, be myself, answer questions, be myself, actually really talk to real people and really be myself.

I gave myself a good talking to (having bored my husband into the shed, accompanied by the dog and any sense of self-worth I had left) and scoffed a couple of bars of chocolate washed down with a glass of something bubbly (ish) left over from a forgotten occasion and with dubious credentials.

‘For crying out loud Eloise! You are afraid of an empty room! What is it going to do? Eat you with its emptiness? Do you think people will walk through the door and point and laugh at you sitting there in the emptiness? In they’ll come, pointing their fingers and laughing their really loud laughs! She’s supposed to be a WiR! They’ll say. HAHAHAHAHA. WiR my foot.’

Now there are two ways of looking at this. 

I am a completely pathetic nerve-bag of an idiotic screwball nut-job.
I am a professional artist who is offended by an expanse of white unpainted by my beauteous words.


I’d go with A.


It was time to woman up! I had to take a leap for once.

Jump and then think while I was floating / falling, so in the end and after much frail and disappointing-the-dog quaking, I did this….



My very own 60 Minute makeover!

And I thought about what I actually want to do with the residency. What I want to get out of it and also what I want to give. And then it just suddenly wasn’t scary any more.

The staff there (who all looked more than a bit nervous when they first met me – probably due to my incessant laughter and hysterical babbling) are lovely.
The town is lovely and dark and mysterious and beautiful.
I’ve been given such a gift with my residency there and I’m going to grab it however much people point and laugh.

Of course once its finished I’ll be buying a lighthouse and throwing banana skins at paparazzi from my balcony but until then I’m creating my St. Davids story.

Wish me luck!

And also wish the people who have to put up with me even more luck!


Stroppy Author said...

Good luck! Looks lovely after your make-over!

Penny Dolan said...

Wishing you lots of good luck and enjoyment with your WiR time. I sympathise with the need/horror of having to put yourself out there but glad you listened to the barks. Claiming your WiR space was an excellent move as it looks bright, interesting and inviting. Have fun, Eloise. What a wonderful opportunity despite those early (and misleading!) portents.

Joan Lennon said...

That was so smart, filling in the emptiness so invitingly. Be brave - you can do it!

Eloise Williams said...

Thanks all. I recovered myself quite quickly and am now writing... in between lighthouse shopping :)

John Dougherty said...

Thanks, Eloise. I've been told I can come across as very confident, but I think I'd be terrified in your position. So if I ever get the opportunity to be a writer in residence, I shall take courage and inspiration from your example. I hope you'll let us know how the project looks from the other side too!

Becca McCallum said...

I think it's quite common for people to feel like that. I read an article on the BBC recently about 'feeling as if you are a fraud' and constantly feeling as if someone is going to 'find you out' for the failure you are - when of course you are actually a successful person with lots of good points. Apparently a sense that you're not as good as you should be is an indication that you're probably doing alright. It's the ones that go around believing that they are wonderful that are really in trouble...! (lol). I would be terrified by that empty room too - but you've done a great job of filling the blank space and making it look inviting. Now just imagine what you could do with a lighthouse....

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I had to smile at your... "where they usually have Artists in Residence filling the space with beautiful paintings or innovative art" because that's how I feel when I'm around illustrators giving workshops. What has a poor writer to show by way of creativity... some paper and a laptop. So your old typewriter was a great idea. Immediately sets the scene for an Earnest Hemingway moment!

Sue Purkiss said...

Loved this!