Painting a new canvas, I think about lines. I was taught at art school to let the eye finish the line, meaning that I, as the painter, should leave it half done, indicating by it’s direction and the flow of the piece where the eye might like to take it. It’s essential to the composition, the alternative leading to a dizzy spell because our eyes will always seek a resolution. We want to land somewhere and go ‘ah!’ and if we can’t do that, we won’t like the painting at all. We will be confused and all over the shop, deducing that the painter was too – that he/she just dithered brushes over the canvas without direction.
Writing employs the same rule of thumb, indicating to the reader where the lines are and allowing them to bring the line to it’s resting place, but not telling them exactly where that place is. If I am too bossy and organising in my story, I leave nothing to your imagination. I don’t allow you to relate, through your own life experiences, opinions, ideas to this character or that one, because they are too stereotyped, too plastic, too finite. You will be yawning by Chapter 3 and probably won’t read the whole book, unless you are one of those people who can’t bear to waste 8.99. I can easily bear that. If I find myself yawning by Chapter 3, it’s off to the doctor’s surgery with it, or the local charity shop, which very possibly isn’t very kind of me.
In life I find the same rule applies. If I am a woman who has a need for a rigid set of lines around her life, I lose out, because, although no-one will tell me I am stuck in my self-absorption, I nonetheless am. If what I say has to be how it is, then I am not allowing anyone else to complete the line, and, beyond human politeness, I will be skirted around in wide circles because I got boring by Chapter 3.
The good news is that opportunities to be dynamically fascinating and compelling come around over and over again as we begin a new venture, such as having a baby or maybe we leave the family home, or we notice we are turning into a lizard. I am only a lizard when my hairdresser pops the black cape around my neck a bit tight and I have to wrench it off and remonstrate with her – a remonstration that always makes her chuckle. Otherwise, the lizard bit goes mostly unnoticed as I avoid at all costs, a magnifying mirror. Seeing too closely anything in my life can have me pulling on my old anorak and moping along the long and whining road until I realise that nobody is following me anymore and I am quite alone.
Time for some new lines to be drawn, lines for a new adventure, indicating direction, begun but not finished.
So, off I go, this time as a guest speaker at Wigtown’s Book Festival, next Saturday lunchtime. I have no idea what to expect, no idea how Island Wife will be received, and all I am taking is myself and my reasonably ok skirt and sassy boots, my eyes for looking out and my ears for taking in. I don’t need to control anything beyond myself and, in that place of freedom, of letting go, I find my sense of humour, alive and well and waiting for me by the side of the road.
I may meet delays, I may get lost, I may forget to pack something vital. It might rain or snow. Wigtown might be wiped out by aliens on Friday afternoon, or the hotel we are staying in may have lost our booking confirmation. But this part-time lizard isn’t going to worry about any of that. She is just going to draw a few lines.
For someone else to finish.