I came to Faber Residency at the end of a long term of marking and assessing at the University of the West of Scotland, where I work during the day, and an almost two-year period of writing a second novel, which I write at night…
I wasn’t sure, would it work for me?…
Sometimes you need a lucky break – not just to get away from routine but to show you why you’re doing it all in the first place.
So there I was, gazing at the mountains above ploughed fields, at the woods between the low volcanic hills, at the town of Olot lying in its bowl-shaped valley, wondering if I’d manage to do everything I’d hoped I would – had promised I would – and what the rest of this residency would turn out to be.
The greatest challenge in being a writer is simply keeping up hope. You have to believe in yourself – not an easy thing when the evidence suggests otherwise. You have be happy and relaxed, constantly encourage yourself to keep moving forward. And it’s so easy not to.
Okay, I thought. Here goes. Out came the laptop and the notebook, the 100,000 word manuscript I’ve been hacking out of the air. I started to work on it.
Strangely, it began to fall into place. The last ten pages I thought I still had to write become thirty, then forty. They tumbled out. Then it was done.
Dinner at night was with Francesc and the other residents – Roy, Valeria, Llatzer and Andrew. The talk was of Proust, Heaney, Breaking Bad, journalism, Catalonian politics, translation, poetry, theatre, jokes…
Gradually I relaxed. Swimming with Francesc, walking with Andrew, laughter with Roy…one night we went out and walked through the town and came across a Living Castle, children on top, adults at the base. Just like life…
Cups of coffee with my notepad in a small square. Sheep’s milk ice cream guiltily devoured near the market place.
So is possible to work without pressure, to make time your friend. To write peacefully and well. To know when to close the laptop and feel good about it: to know it’s time not to go on. I produced the words and the revision. And each go at it made it clearer, let me know it would be there for me, fresh and breathing, when I came back.
Oh and the interviews and the talk on Scottish and Catalonian independence and the audience and the people from the English school and the public interest and the offers of future partnerships and projects. And the visit to Gerona and the final cup of coffee in the Barcelona bookshop. I fell for Catalonia big time.
Good times, new friends, people I’ll know again.
A new novel lurking in my laptop, waiting. Excited about it.
Loads of energy. Loads of other ideas.
Thanks Olot, and thanks Faber – Francesc, Agata, Albert, and Marta and everybody else I met. I’ll be back in Catalonia again, for sure.
So this is not the end…