I went to a funeral this week for a well loved and respected neighbour. He’d lived in my small close for 40 years and in all that time had built a reputation as a kind, caring gentleman, a man who had time for his neighbours, who would stop you at his garden gate and ask how your day was. He’d always have time for a smile and a wave. In essence, he always made you feel better.
During the wake I got to meet the many people that had come to pay their respects. The majority spoke of years gone by, when the entire street was an open house and everyone felt like part of a community. As one lady said “you could never feel lonely. Or unsafe. We looked after each other.”
During the day I got chatting to current neighbours that I’d only nodded to briefly in the past. I was still relatively new to the street, as most of these people had lived in their houses for many years. It was lovely to have the opportunity to really talk to them, without rushing past and find out people’s backgrounds and histories. By the end of the day, not only did I have new friends, but a street party had been organised to raise money for charity and to reunite our small community further.
I went home glowing, feeling part of something which, considering how bleak the country had felt lately, was a great thing.
Later this week I found I was struggling with various other things. My writing wasn’t going as I’d hoped and the self-doubt monster was biting my neck again, forcing me to believe those deeply negative thoughts – those ones that take over and consume you if you let them.
I spoke to a writer friend, who was immediately on hand with reassuring words and a helpful kick in the butt. And it helped, it really did – because, as we know, writing can be a lonely, isolating activity.
In the past I have turned to others in the industry, to friends in writing communities who are there to dispense advice, wisdom and jokes as required.
It’s made me realise just how important these communities are. Just like my neighbours, writing communities can be there to reassure, give you a sense of belonging and also remind you of the important things – like laughter, love and wine.
So today, against a backdrop of political difficulties ahead of us, I will be raising a glass. And I will be loudly thanking those that make our lives that little brighter.
Let’s keep the light shining.
Eve Ainsworth is the author of Crush and 7 Days (Scholastic) 7 Days was nominated for the 2015/16 Carnegie Medal and was winner of the Dudley Teen Prize and FAB Books Prize 2016