This Writer’s Path In Black & White? Or Search For The Lost Portal?



This image could be symbolic. You see the real problem is my mind keeps leaping ahead. Already it knows what is waiting for it beyond that distant obelisk. There is the final scene: redemption for a lost, old soul; rain falling in a rainless land. There is even the final sentence. The last full stop. I can see them all. But then, curiously perhaps, the mind’s-eye place that I rush towards is nothing like the place in the photograph – this rain-logged Cornish avenue of cropped limes. How could it be? My body may live in England now, but my mind still wanders in Africa where it endlessly struggles to create.

The yarn (aka the novel) that’s been churning in my head for countless months (years maybe) has its source in the thorny, arid plains of East Africa. And if ever it rains there, it smells nothing like the rain in temperate lands. In Africa you know your life depends on it – the fickle falling of rain. In England you simply expect it while grumbling at forever getting wet. This is one manifestation of the great divide between the famished and the over-fed.

And yet…

And yet there is congruence here.

When I discover the avenue at Christmas I am instantly fascinated. It’s like coming upon a lost garden, or some ancient megalith. I want to know where the path leads: simply to the obelisk, or is there something more beyond? The avenue itself, with its period formality, anyway evokes expectation of some pleasing and diverting progress along it.

But it isn’t the time for promenading. The weather is so gloomy and wet the avenue is almost too dark to photograph, let alone walk along. But still I return several times more, and pick my way back and forth among the trees, noting the clumps of daffodils and crocus, sprouting densely among the roots. I even patrol the grassy bank beside it, trying to grasp the avenue’s measure and meaning. Is it simply some vanity-planting by long-ago denizens of the small manor house that is now converted into holiday flats? And even though I can see it clearly issues from the carriage circle outside the house, does it actually go anywhere at all?

I can ask similar questions of my current work. Is it a piece of vanity writing, or something of substance? A story that is going somewhere special, or not? I am becoming aware, too, that knowing the ending (being in love with it almost) could be an (overwhelming) handicap: why bother to create what comes before it? Isn’t it all too hard? But then, on its own, that final scene has no meaning, no matter how much it may excite and lure my imagination away from the job in hand; snatching concentration from the down-and-dirty toil of how to get there.

So yes, yes, and yes. Of course it is the journey that counts; the grand excursion that must be planned and undertaken. Undergone. Borne. The delineation and experience of what happens on the way are key; in that yawning space between departure and arrival great transformations must take place. This, after all, is the point of fiction. Verbal alchemy.

When I finally slither and slide to the obelisk, I find the avenue strangely truncated. Behind the monument whose commemorative purpose is not obvious, I find a small wrought iron seat for two and, a step beyond and directly facing it at right-angles, a hedge. This is puzzling. How can the avenue end here? Surely it was once part of the main drive to the house. From its earliest days in 1690, and through the Victorian period, Duloe Manor was the rectory. And so, whether by carriage or cart, on horseback or on foot, parishioners must have approached its front door somehow.

A cursory scanning of the landscape suggests that any onward stretch of drive must have turned sharply at the obelisk and descended downhill to the lane. Now it is lost in an open meadow tailored for holiday guests who wish to exercise their dogs or simply amble. I also ponder why the seat looks onto a hedge. Then I see that, beneath the recent unseasonal growth spurts, the hedge had been shaped to allow a vista as if it were a balcony. As I stand beneath dripping lime trees, I conjure a clear day when rainclouds aren’t snagged on the fence tops. The panorama of Cornish countryside will be magnificent, I think; perhaps a distant glint of sea?

Looking at the photo now, I see only my task ahead – the making and moulding of the many stages through which a piece of work must pass. I have made a good start. Written many thousands of words. I know where I’m heading. Clearly then it is time to commit myself to the hardest part – the middle.

But here’s the rub – the discomforting, unnerving questions that this little excursion has sparked. Ones that must be answered before I take another step.
1: How seriously do I take my writer-self? Seriously enough to bring off this task?
2: Does the work itself have energy enough to make, or even warrant the journey?
3: Do I have energy enough?
4: And how will I feel if I never give myself the chance to write that final scene?

On reflection, an answer to this last might serve for the other three. It depends on the answer.

Later – today in fact – I discover that in times past one of the house guests at Duloe Manor was Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. It is said he was working on Alice in Wonderland at the time. Suddenly this knowledge brings new possibility. Never mind the navel-gazing and writer-angst. Of course it is exhausting inhabiting two realities, and never being quite in either – body in one place, mind half a world away. Surely, then, what I need is Alice’s rabbit hole – to submerge, to blooming well get down there and on with it. In fact, look out there. I think I see him. Isn’t that the White Rabbit dodging through the lime trees? Quick, quick, I mustn’t lose sight of him.

Wait for me-eeeee, White Rabbit!

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell


47 thoughts on “This Writer’s Path In Black & White? Or Search For The Lost Portal?

  1. You will never catch him Tish
    I’m late
    I’m late
    For a very important date.
    No time to say “Hello, Goodbye”.
    I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

    I am having similar struggles at the moment – I know where I start and I know where I end but the bit in the middle remains a mystery.
    I could have worse problems in life I guess – have a grand weekend.

  2. Not that it will make you feel better, but it is nice to know that even a writer of your ability and accomplishment struggles to get things down on ”paper” sometimes.
    How is it one can write such a vivid piece as this yet struggle to sit at the word processor and knuckle down?
    I wonder too what happened to that mojo that propelled me to write almost non-stop for a long time as though I was on some sort of literary designer drug.

    The photos are wild. The different perspective is like looking at the same image while closing one eye then the other.

    Oh, and I agree, African rain is different and has a smell all of its own.

    1. Hello, Ark. Oh, how I would like to sit down at the PC and write hellforleather. I don’t let myself of course. But it would be a great work- out if one did it every day – if only for 20 mins. New NY’s resolution coming on perhaps…

  3. I enjoyed the bookend shots, Tish, and the wonderful words between them. I have no doubt you can do the writing and although I’ve never been there, I think I caught a hint of the smell of rain in Africa, a bit like that in the desert.


  4. Utterly brilliant Tish. You have captured the middle of the project angst so well here. All the doubts, all that intense naval gazing and yet, over and above all that, the compulsion to get to the end – to finish the project. Your description of the writer’s doubts mirrors my own as I labour on a project that is resolutely stuck in the middle. There is nothing for it now but either give up and always feel discontented and live with that nagging feeling that there is something left undone or to keep going and birth the vision into the light of day. .
    How wonderful that you stumbled upon Lewis Carol’s writing retreat – what incredible inspiration. Keep going down that rabbit hole.

      1. I’m now thinking my project is about to die :)

    1. Sorry about your stuckness, Gilly. Sometimes it helps to interrogate what is or isn’t happening out loud as if you were speaking to someone else.(Or if an actual someone else will stand in for this, so much the better.) For some reason saying things out loud can shake up the subconscious sufficiently to yield some info about what’s going on. ‘Have I started in the right place?’ is the sort of question I often ask. Another approach is ‘What if I looked at it this way…’. Or more directly – ‘What the devil are trying to tell me?’ Delays often mean that the subconscious creator in your head is trying to resolve a dilemma you have unwittingly set it. Or perhaps there’s something you need to find out. In which case, ‘Tell me. What is it that I need to know before I can move on?’ Good luck.

      1. Oh thanks Tish! Today I’m going to have a clear out of my desk because I’ve realised that I miss using my pc. Instead I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table on my laptop getting distracted by everything and not really liking the smaller screen for writing. I’m hoping that clean, tidy space will lead to clean, tidy mind that can actually get the words down instead of trapped. x:-)x

  5. For all the things you said and for a bunch of other ineffable reasons, I’ve always loved taking pictures of paths. They represent some kind of infinite possibility. Opening to the past, the future, another dimension. The mystery of life … or just my own front door 🙂

  6. Your writing flows // a clear day when rainclouds aren’t snagged on the fence tops // and clearly dictates that you will, and must, take that journey. Your obelisk awaits.

  7. Dear Tish, after reading one of your posts I feel should come here more often.
    On another note, I cannot reach Archaeopteryx, I haven’t had a line from him for some time. Do you have any idea of his whereabouts – so to speak?

  8. Fabulous piece Tish. I was with you all the way, and although I don’t write fiction, I do often have the same kinds of questions about my writing. I am in awe of people who write fiction!

  9. LOVE this post Tish! I’m fascinated and will read it again to get all the delicious juice out of it. Or was it rain? Right in the middle there, or maybe in Africa. I feel kiddy like a child with the thought that my work will take me there again next month. Rain on African soil, Kenya.

    1. Ah. Off to Africa, Tiny. How very wonderful. Please give it my love when you go. I’ve just been reading Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor – What a book. What a writer. What a ferociously beautiful evocation of Kenya.

  10. I clearly see that white rabbit waiting for you in the centre of the lane Tish. You have a captivating way with words that keeps me reading, urging you on, and what an enigmatic lane that leads to nowhere that was once somewhere. Catch that rabbit and hang on for the ride through the middle, at least you know where it will end. Good luck…

  11. Sorry. I’m writing on the phone. So you have an ending. The path is clear and lined with lime trees. Keep walking my friend. Your eyes are open and your voice always clear. So keep on walking and singing your beautiful song.

  12. What a wonderful evocation of a state of mind. I’m not writing, but I can see my current sense of my own life in what you write. I love the photos, especially the last one – a real sense of another world. And I love the way you criss-cross between writing, real place, remembered place and fictional place. Sheer delight for the bystander. Seems to be in the air, this “where am I going and do I want to be there?” angst.

    1. Angst indeed. It’s all the New Year reappraisal syndrome kicking in – along with general disquiet about the state of world – plight of refugees, cruel weather – at least for some people. Thank you for coming on my White Rabbit hunt.

  13. You do writer angst most beautifully, Tish, and I’m sure that you will get there. Me, I’d just like to follow you to that obelisk, or maybe down the rabbit hole 🙂 Jude’s right- I loved those snagged clouds too.
    I had the feeling you were going to withdraw from blogging for a while, to focus, but I imagine it’s light relief at times. And great moral support 🙂

      1. You are also right about the moral support which is so welcome. And yes I do dither between blogging and not blogging. And I may well have to rein myself in in order to inject more progress into the WIP. We’ll see.

  14. You have put writer’s block into very poetic terms and have given me encouragement to do more with my writing than just wait for my muse. I must chase that rabbit! Thank you so much for the recent visit to my blog. I will enjoy exploring yours.

    1. That is so good to hear, Jo – that you are up for the rabbit chase. Sometimes there are good reasons for dawdling. Sometimes it can become a habit. None of it is easy though, is it. But I’m so glad if my post gave you encouragement. That’s encouraging to me too 🙂 Happy hunting…

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