Trust a Scotsman to bring whisky into it! Alistair Rennie talks to me about the magic of the water of life.
“To refresh my well I like to go places, do things, get active, get outside, make music, make videos, go drinking, watch football and rugby, be with friends.
I go trekking in wild places, go camping, go mountain biking, visit castles, stone circles, ancient sites of natural or historical interest, obsess over skies and explore the wild coasts. I’m very lucky to have access to places where I can do all of this with relative ease. Both in Scotland and in my second home, Italy.
All of this, I do it with friends. And they’re probably the true source of the waters I need to replenish my empty vats.
If I’m alone, I go on escapades without direction. I enter the darklands of the mood and become inwardly vacant of purpose. I become as much of a void as humanly possible. I exist with only a shimmer of sentience, with no self-consciousness at all, like a wandering animal without the awareness of an animal.
All of these activities, whether with friends or done alone, are probably a sort of emptying of the well – a psychological drainage technique, an evacuation of the dregs to make way for a fresh refill.
At the same time as the drainage occurs, the well is being filled up with new ideas derived from the experiences of seeing and feeling the world of geography and weather and night time revelry. I take these things and, in my mind, I turn them into melodrama – which is the emotional basis for ideas.
I stress ideas rather than inspiration.
Ideas, for me, are the elements of the process that inspire you to write. Inspiration alone can’t formulate a character or design a scene or envisage the outcome of a story. Ideas are “the water of life” of stories – the uisge beatha – the whisky of storytelling that puts fire in the belly of creative purpose.
That’s when I’m ready to re-enter those intensive periods required for writing. And I’ll keep going through those intensive periods till the well runs dry, till its resources are reduced to muddy silts and murky dregs – and the spirit of outdoor adventure and reckless pursuit, of drinking with friends, making music around the fire pit, lying under the stars with a beer in hand – the spirit takes over.
And the water cycle goes on again, without any kind of rationale or regularity whatsoever. Which is exactly how it should be!”
Alistair’s latest novel is Bleak Warrior. Jeff Vandermeer called it trangressive and hard-edged, and he should know!