It’s Saturday, a day which conjures up rest, relaxation, and for many people, socialising. Finding my plans for the evening scuppered, my first thought is housework (overdue hovering, a desk that needs tidying, etc). But my second thought, as always, is writing. This is the story of a writer, on a Saturday night, suddenly cast adrift again with the luxury of time and space and inspiration, who finds a strange kind of synchronicity in her work. It’s one of those times when, despite the insistent mundanity of the everyday, the siren call of the woman’s lot, ghost voices of mother, sisters and past lovers saying that a real woman has a clean home, and only a slattern would leave the hovering and the dust and take up writing, despite all of that, this woman sits down to write. Sun and crisp evening air spilling in through the open door to the garden, light on the crumbs and dirt on the rug. Shadows shift to show the clumped cat hair in the dark corner, the disordered cushions, the tea-stained mug bearing mute witness to the passing of the day. And there, here in fact, on the worn, dusty-rose-pink chaise longue with its multi-coloured throws, a woman writes. The emptiness of sudden free time is filled immediately with waiting words. Did I say waiting? Yes, they have been waiting, words formed up into orderly queues pushing at the doors of the mind, desperate to rush through. Words crowded around like shoppers who have camped out overnight for the early sales, eager and frantic. Slower words, hesitant and deliberate, plodding along with the certainty that at some point they will, inevitably, reach their destination and become real, like the puppet in the story.
Bland words, blanched words, pale like plants kept alive without sunlight, the ignored words of too many weeks and months and years. This is the writer’s lot, I think, the reordering of not enough time to write, so that these words wait in the wings and like albino spiders, become transparent and elongated in abysmal caves of the mind. Some words are sanctioned and given life, the words demanded by paid word, while others must languish until that elusive moment of ‘free time’ allows them space and egress. And then, suddenly, the cross-over between selves, strange synchronicity, a place between words, where the creative (in this case, a novel exploring relationships between women, and in particular, the manifestations of control) and the academic (a chapter on lesbian fusion in relationships for an edited collection on women’s relationships) makes me realise that life is about synchronicity. Stories are about synchronicity. The research I do for the chapter inspires my understanding and makes the novel’s words flow; reflecting on the personal and engaging the imagination allows a more seductive shaping of the academic work. A life lived simultaneously in multiple dimensions must engender synchronicity, or else there is only chaos.
But where is the story, you say? Where are the plot, the characters, the obstacles and the inevitable resolution? It’s all there, I answer. All there to be seen. The plot comes from me, the author, and the million and one women’s lives before and after and happening now, from the Vindication of the Rights of Women to A Room of One’s own, all those words that waited in the wings and were never heard, or seen, or talked about. All those women whose stories were never read. And the women whose stories were read. And the ones like me who, despite every convenience of the modern world, find themselves alone on a Saturday night contemplating the housework because that is what women do, when I should be walking the beach, notebook in hand, uncaring, making the words, and only the words, my highest priority, because they have and always will be my first love. Instead, there are these words, and the tea-stained cup, and the two projects sitting hand in hand like twins separated at birth who turn to each other and smile, saying, I know you. A woman who writes is her truest self when she acknowledges where the words come from.
Words, tea, synchronicity. Me.