At the age of 48, I decided to take up writing. I had not spent my youth, twenties or even thirties keeping a diary or scribbling stories and poems, but one year I spent an entire holiday putting pen to paper. My husband said it was one of the nicest trips we have ever had, because it was so ‘peaceful’.
Then I gave the book to all my mates to read. I quickly tired of the ‘nice’ comments of friends and family, none of whom could give me an objective opinion, so I had my first ever attempt (77 thousand words) assessed by the good people at TLC. The observant and in-depth break-down was not only a spur for me to hone my craft but also a brilliant observation of my greatest foibles! It inspired me to go out and buy 2nd-hand books on ‘how to write a book’. I was totally gripped by the idea of forming the plot (no, my first attempt had none) and set about drawing a flow diagram with stick men/women/people and descriptions of each of my characters.
So, there I am one manuscript assessment down and raring to go on the 2nd draft and…
Complete and utter writer’s block.
More like a skyscraper than a mere block actually.
Six months later (still no new words written) I manage to get a job running a music studio for the summer. On the island of Ibiza. Excellent, I think. If there is one place to get back into the swing it is the White Isle, the muse to so many before me. From painters to poets the island has a reputation, beyond the mad hedonism, of nurturing creativity in those that choose to express it. Admittedly art is in the eye of the beholder so, as with the parties on offer, every possible variation has been painted, chanted, written and blown.
I came up with a hashtag as a motivational phrase even though I do not use social media. My hashtag was #ibizamyinspiration.
Then I proceed to do my job, which is a sort of glamorised chai-wallah, using all my spare time to mingle with as many fellow creatives I can find. It is not the DJs and their milieu I am searching for, but those who are writing, performing, painting and photographing. As is the way in such a small space I am connected with historians, puppeteers, painters and poets within the first month.
Still, I have not written a word of the second draft.
One afternoon I am visiting friends at a finca in the centre of the island. As I look around me I become aware of the amazing individual stories each one has to tell. From the former male model who eloped with an Arab princess in the 60s to the American who avoided the Vietnam draft, these tales are oral history which should be recorded. I come up with a concept for an anthology of everyone’s journey, including mine. This is really exciting as they will be short stories, 3-7 thousand words each – much less daunting than 120 thousand! Upon my return I share the idea with my husband. He is not sure I can motivate anyone to write their story.
Ever the problem solver, I decide to come up with the idea of a competition with prizes and kudos to encourage people to write short stories pertaining to the island. Running the idea by my new ‘tribe’, the artists want art included, the poet wants poetry included and of course the photographers want photography to be included. I give in and spend a week thinking of a name. I settle on Ibiza Quills. Feeling motivated, I make a website and join the social media masses, in-between carting musicians around and feeding them healthy meals. Deciding to flex my wordy wings and provide content for the website I dabble with short stories, then shorten them even further to flash fiction and 4 verse poetry.
Still no progress on the 2nd draft of my novel.
Word gets out about our little literary society. We have a party to launch the competition in the cutest location serving cava and superfood balls (very Ibiza). It is a huge success with 40 people signing up by the end of the night. I realise that although everyone has paid, only a third if not less will probably enter the competition, but it is wonderful that they are supporting the project.
Afterwards I get asked to ‘pop-up’ with my poetry at the brilliantly named Cosmic Pineapple. Feeling unworthy of my accidental poet status I invent a ‘nom de plume’ to hide behind. Even though I have, by now, written a few ditties and the outlines of a couple of short stories I still feel very inexperienced and there are some seriously ‘proper’ artists and wordsmiths about. These incredible people believe me when I say I write (even though I never manage to say I am a writer, only – I write). I am humbled by the appreciation of our gatherings. I write more poetry, silly little rhyming ditties for some of the local environmental events. I can’t quite believe this is all happening. However, this is Ibiza after all.
We (Ibiza Quills) also decide to hold a series of creative workshops every Sunday during the season and a monthly historical debate with a panel of historians, writers and local experts. None of which leads to me opening up that word document entitled TWWGAA (yes my ‘book’ title is very long). I excuse my lack of progress by counting the poems I have come up with (5) and short stories completed (1). Although I do learn about the history of the island and its Tanit Goddess, Zines, Story Dice, Still Life and how to take a good B&W shot. Which is nice.
As if all of this is not enough to blow my quill, it is still only two thirds through the season and my foray into literary waters is about to go Tropicana. Club Tropicana to be exact. My father is pleased yet slightly confused at my popularity – not me rather my poetry, as I have never shown any inclinations in that direction before.
Still no words written for the 2nd draft.
Now however, I am running out of time. Six weeks to the end of the season and (somehow) I am taking part in the first ever Pikes Literary Festival. There is talk about the last evening. About the Open Mic and I.
The event was a huge success for Pikes, the authors, the audience, IQ and Virginia Feelgood. We even had some cameos from Irvine Welsh, John Niven and Neil Forsyth!
During the three-day event I have an epiphany whilst on a (sun) bed with one of the authors. He told me to “jolly well get on with it!” (in slightly more colourful language…)
This resonated and I have gone on; not to finish the second draft but instead I have written a ‘spoof’ diary of the crazy, wild and wonderful season.
And so. My first book will be a collection of writing about not writing!
I am planning to raise money for local animal charities with it.
My hashtag #ibizamyinspiration has not gone viral.
‘The Book’ remains a work in progress.
But I am becoming a wordsmith. And I feel good.
Sara is the Founder of Ibiza Quills, a writing collective based on the island of Ibiza.