I was surprised yesterday morning by the very strong impulse to write a blog. It’s two-and-a-half years since I last posted, in which time I’ve given little thought to A Few Kind Words. But yesterday, the project that has occupied me for the best part of five years passed the point of no return. The biography I have been writing of my great-great-uncle went to the printers, and any mistakes that remain uncorrected go with it.
I feel an odd mixture of relief and loss. I have never written a factual book before and was wholly unprepared for the exhausting round of work that would come after delivery of the final, edited version of the manuscript: the fact-checking, caption-writing, quote-finding, image-sourcing and crediting, and – Oh God – the indexing. It would have cost me around £750 to have it done professionally, so I did it myself. Next time I’d pay, even if I had to sell my children.
So this blog marks the end of something, which is also the beginning of something else – the book’s passage into the wider world. But there’s a hiatus of a few weeks before the thing itself arrives from the printers and the promotional hoo-ha, the trumpet-blowing, the getting-out-onto-the-circuit starts. Right now, a vacuum has opened up and it seems I’m unable to leave it unfilled.
In due course a much bigger, book-sized vacuum will loom. I’m not thinking about that yet, but I am thinking about the rhythm, the pulse, that blogging brought to my life for so many years. Between 2009 and 2016, less frequently thereafter, I’d sit down every Thursday afternoon around 4.00 pm, sometimes with an idea, sometimes with none, and usually within a couple of hours I’d have something written.
Then, in the early days when there was a Thursday evening session, I’d go to the pub to play the piano for a further couple of hours, before coming home to tidy up the blog and schedule it for posting next morning – the whole, a creative high point in the week. On Friday the responses would come pinging in. I was constantly taken aback by people’s generosity in making time to write, and the week would end in a little flurry of dopamine.
I realise now what a large part it played in my wellbeing. The rhythm, the sense of achievement, the reward of the responses; but more than any of these, the act of locating myself in the world with each short post, of figuring out where I stood, what I thought and felt about everything from wolves to gospel music, boarding school to the moon landing. It was an enormous privilege to be able to ruminate publicly and to an appreciative audience. Those who thought it was rubbish were kind enough not to tell me.
I’ve missed it, in the way that one can miss things without knowing it. Much has happened in the thirty-odd months since I last posted, and it strikes me now that the decision to stop coincided with the coming into force of the second national lockdown. The ‘honeymoon’ period, those extraordinary first summer months, were behind us, the real grind of Covid was starting to make itself felt, winter was coming and people’s spirits were beginning to dip. I firmly believe that we have all been affected by Covid, whether or not we contracted it, in ways that we cannot yet fully comprehend.
The writing of a book is also an arduous and prolonged kind of turning inward that makes huge demands of one’s inner resources. To write a short piece like this again feels a luxury, and almost a mark of rehabilitation. I don’t know yet if it’s the start of something more regular. But it does remind me yet again of the benefit of writing down one’s thoughts. ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say,’ wrote EM Forster. What he didn’t add was that knowing what you think, and seeing it written down, can make the world a lot easier to live in.
Don Roberto: the Adventure of Being Cunninghame Graham will be published on 1st June by Scotland Street Press at £24.99. It will be available for pre-order at a 20% discount throughout the month of May.
Huge congratulations to sending off your final manuscript. And yes some things are well worth paying for. Welcome back to a blog ( I won’t hold you to the next one); it was a delight getting a few kind words this morning. I will hold them dear. I too think we are changed in ways we cannot fathom yet – some good some not.
Oh, this is such a lovely surprise. Great to have you back blogging again 🙂
Thank you, Neil!
Excellent! I’ve been expecting you!
Thank you Gillian!
You arrived with bright spring sunshine, Jamie. Welcome back.
Thank you, James!
What a wonderful surprise to find a new blog on A Few Kind Words. Like others, I’ve missed seeing your thoughts on a range of subjects which often challenged me to work out what I thought.
Like you I stopped writing on my blog, somewhat earlier than you – Boris Johnson winning the election in 2019 – and though I had written throughout the May premiership, his win and his dreadful Brexit Deal left me too depressed and angry to write anything coherent apart from one piece at the start of lockdown, which I had started writing months earlier.
Then came the RBCG talks in Madrid and by Zoom, the book (which is now in being considered by a publisher), and the summer job of style correcting English translations of books by Hispanic authors to tight deadlines…
But now it is Spring again and the cherry blossom has just been replaced by red leaves, there are sprigs of green on the other trees and it is warm and sunny – maybe I too will be inspired to write something.
Thank you, Robin.
Might I say, with a renewed zest. Reading your comeback blog Jamie, I was immediately struck by its vigour. Tackling the book akin to a years-long gym for your writing muscles I’m guessing? Your weekly offering was valued and its return so very welcomed.
Thank you, Ian!
Well what a good surprise! I am delighted to see you back and look forward to reading your book – and the prospect of a regular arrival of a few kind words once again! Well done for both and lots of love .
Thank you Caroline – longing to see you both!
Goodness me. A hopeful Friday. Much wisdom, and a reflective jaunty Jauncey re emerges.
And it is a sunny morning in Coopersburg. Spring has most definitely sprung.
Thank you, John!
I am back in Spain again now and writing. For me that coincided with a desire to wake my blog up from 7/8 years of hibernation. It’s new version positions me as our or your man in Cadiz. http://Www.thelittlesummerofthequince.Wordpress.com
Congrats on the book, my new novel is inspired by a true family mystery.
One of my favourite books is written by Owen Sheers called “ The Dust Diaries” in which Owen goes in search of his great uncle , literally and metaphorically. His journey takes him to old Rhodesia where his relative became a hero to some and a thorn in the side to others. I would call it a non-fiction book. I have met Owen sheers a few times, once in the Welsh Rugby Home changing room in Cardiff when my mum sat in her hero’s seat , that of Leigh Halfpenny.
But, as they say, that’s another story .The Dust Diaries is beautifully written. Best wishes, Paul
Thank you, Paul.
Lovely to read your thoughts on blogging and a welcome return to my inbox. Thank you.
Thank you, Emma.
Fantastic, your writing is so evocative and thought-provoking, welcome back xx