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Outside Influence

It’s been interesting this past week to notice how my circumstances and location influences how, when and what I write. Since we’ve been back in Scotland, I’ve taken to staying up late, watching real-life crime programmes and doing a jigsaw puzzle. Yes, I live a very rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle! When the crime programmes end, I check my emails and usually writק my story before I head off to bed just after midnight, and what’s interesting is that here in Scotland I’ve also been writing about different things.

In South Africa (where I went to bed by 9pm) I would write in the morning with the sun shining, the dogs barking and the leaf blowers blowing. During lockdown my writing tended to dwell on all the people and places I couldn’t see anymore. Some of the plays and sketches I wrote in April were centred around this new way of living and contained a lot of references to online learning and to people missing other people. As time went on and lockdown became our new normal, my feelings changed and my writing along with them.

During the first week of the challenge, we were settling into our quarantine and things were looking up. My writing that week was a bit silly, and full of escapism. As real life took hold and sent us on a bit of a rollercoaster, my writing started to twist and turn too. I’ve always enjoyed exploring my darker side and as the clock ticks its way towards midnight and the world outside is silent and black, it feels like the right way to go. I’ve found myself writing about convicts or psychiatric patients in tales of punishment and retribution… usually with a twist or a sting in the tail, so I very much enjoyed the sadistic brief!

As the rollercoaster slowed down (slightly) my writing began to reflect my surroundings again, and with a few days of sunshine I was able to produce some fun fantasy, history and summer stories. There were pangolins, grumpy dwarves in far-off realms and a woman called Lisa who refused to smile, even if someone paid her to. Not in the same story, although maybe one day.

Then as the Scottish summer remembered itself and got back to normal rain and wind, I began writing sad and melancholy tales of boredom, longing and despair. I also took the chance to have a good old whinge about the weather, which is a Scottish Olympic sport.

So apparently, it’s not just the briefs that inspire us but our mood, our surroundings and even what we watch on TV.

A few years ago, I was bobbing around in the sea on holiday in Mexico when I wondered what it would be like to be stuck out in the middle of the ocean all alone. That became my first novella, ‘Horizon’. Would the idea have come to me if I was in the shower or sitting on a bus instead? Who knows? But whatever it is that brings us our inspiration or moulds our imagination, I know we’re all glad of it. Long may it continue to do so… at least until the end of June!

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