I took two weeks off teaching over Easter – two weeks when the cherry tree showered the garden with blossom, the Blackthorn bust into flower, and I saw the first swallows flittering over the gardens of Gorsey Bank. It was good to let go of all responsibility, to walk around town in the damp twilight, or cross the stream into the fields to catch the last of the evening sun – to have thinking space. During the day I worked on my novel, ‘The Green Table,’ focusing on the three main characters, trying to get inside them, to see the world through their eyes. It wasn’t exactly moving me nearer to completion, but felt absolutely necessary. I’d reached a kind of impasse, close to the climax of the novel, yet unclear of anyone’s direction or fate. I remember Hilary Mantel talking about listening as part of writing – listening to the imagination, waiting for the voices – the interior drama. Over the next few months, whenever I can, I’ll walking and listening, listening and writing, until the shadows become fixed and clear.
The other day I had the fleeting and chilling notion that I was like a God deciding the fates of people who, as far as I know, may exist in a parallel reality. In that situation it would be heartless to make decisions based on what makes the most gripping story, but conversely, for a writer, kindness might cause failure of authenticity. It’s a fine balance. The imagination is illusive – where do the ideas that flit through the mind come from?
The first novel I wrote for adults, ‘Dreaming in Colour,’ was pretty damned awful. I couldn’t bring myself to read it now, but writing it was a tremendous experience at the time. I’ve rarely been so engrossed in anything – and so nearly unbalanced. How much easier it is to be a choreographer – at least you can see the work as it takes shape in the rehearsal room beyond the thinking mind. I recall the powerful sense that I myself was changed through creating one particular character, a dancer called Silas Hall. I’d recently seen Japanese dancer, Saburo Teshigarawa, and Silas emerged from the memory of Teshigarawa’s wonderful piece ‘Beyond Zero’. Silas lived in my imagination for a long time. One particular day, weighted down with stress, I had the sudden feeling that he stood beside me. It was like greeting a beloved friend, like sunlight breaking through cloud, an unsettling and wonderful experience. I don’t consider writing to be therapy. Often it’s the hardest work. But at times the relationship between the writer and her characters feels tangible and equal. Who is controlling who? Perhaps, when a character comes to life, it’s as close as the writer can get to standing apart from the familiar self? But it’s more than this too.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.