Being a writer is about so much more than simply putting words on paper in the right order. After a year of turbulence, and three years of near-hibernation, during which I have retreated into a range of forms of escape, I can honestly say that the tide has turned and the writer in me is awake.
Last month I finished and submitted the final draft of my next novel, Ash, which is to be published by Honno Press this year. It was a challenge, as it meant taking the stories of my much-beloved characters in Inshallah in new directions and looking deeply into more of the ways in which women’s lives are played out in this imperfect world. This meant more research into difficult areas, and more soul-searching about the ways in which I engage with the issues I wanted to explore. It seems that a writer is more than a wordsmith. She is a commentator on culture, on experience, on society, and I became more aware of this as I took the deep journey into a new underworld, a new landscape that was paradoxically and achingly familiar.
To awake to oneself is a powerful process, and is often painful. It was only as I finished Ash, that I realised that Amanda, the main character in Inshallah, was simply telling the story of her own awakening, and sharing the symbolism of her own becoming. And through this I was able to see that we are all, as women, on a similar journey, one which challenges us to awake from the sleep of complacency, and to shrug off the anodyne effects of quick-fixes in our lives. There are multiple routes of escape available to us, and it seems to me there is no shame in taking time to switch off, but a writer needs to be awake, to be conscious, to be aware of the impact of what she writes and to understand why she is writing it.
This has become more pertinent to me over the last two months, as I have been notified that I am a finalist for the Chwarae Teg Leadership award (https://www.cteg.org.uk/womenspire-18/2018-finalists/) an incredible honour and a complete surprise. I have become suddenly and powerfully conscious of the impact and influence I must have in the lives of others, and fully aware of the responsibility of having such an influence. I have always loved hearing feedback from my readers, always felt honoured and humbled if my work affects them, engages them, or uplifts them. It is a part of everything else that I do, working with incredible women on various stages of their own life-journeys. But writing, creating, is a solitary and often isolating experience, and to bring your work out into the world means letting go of what you believe the story to be, and setting it free to exist independently in the minds and lives of the readers. I can only hope, as I experience my own reawakening to self, to the writer I am, which, as is the case for many women, is just one fragment of the whole self, that I can continue to create and to share my work in ways that bring some new awareness into the lives of others.