Karen Viggers is a vet and a writer. I haven’t taken my cats to her, but from what I hear, she’s equally as good in both jobs! Her novel The Lightkeeper’s Wife recently sold a bucketload in France (I’m talking over 100,000) so they’re clever readers over there! Here she talks about refreshing her wells in a gloriously evocative way:
“Two ingredients are needed for refreshing my wells: being outside and being alone. Even better if I can do both together. I need space and time to expand my mind and allow ideas to rise. With two teenage children, life is hectic, so opportunities are rare. Either I snatch space during the day, walking the dog in the local bush land. Or I wait until holidays when the usual daily demands fall away. Then I can park the family taxi, defer the cleaning, shelve the cooking, and take time out with my favourite companions: a notebook and pen.
The best places for me have big skies and horizons, and they’re high in the mountains or down near the sea. In alpine areas, I like to be above the tree-line, where wind moans around rocks and water trickles down gullies. I sit and listen to the air moving, smell the sweet scent of grass, gaze into distance and watch the changing light: shadows shifting over the land, clouds scudding, the silvery waters of streams reflecting the sky. Peace settles. I feel myself breathing, the warmth of happiness, and then a great openness awakens inside me. This is where my wells are refreshed and ideas are born.
The sea generates similar sensations for me: different but the same. I seek out a nook along the shore and some solitude, and there I sit, feeling the rhythm of waves, the thump and swish of dumpers on sand. I watch birds doing what they do. Oystercatchers poking out molluscs in rock pools. Cormorants poised on sea-stacks, airing their wings. Far out, a fishing gannet plummeting into the swell. A sea-eagle sailing over, wings spread wide, riding on the wind. These things cleanse me.
My stories come from Australian landscapes, so it’s not surprising that I find inspiration outdoors. Inside the house, it’s too easy to be distracted; all around I see tasks that need doing, whereas outside, I can breathe.
At home I walk with the dog. It works when I’m stuck, when something’s not working. Instead of beating my head against the keyboard, it’s better to run away. Up in the tangy woodland, the knots of frustration fall away and I see a way through, how to fix things.
Writing comes from deep within, so those creative wells do need replenishing. Sometimes, as writers, we work ourselves dry and run out of energy. We give everything to find the right words, to massage the plot, to create the right feeling. We peel ourselves back to fit into the skins of our characters and empathise with their pain: possibly a type of schizophrenia? Then we have to ground ourselves again. To carry on with normal life, when we are not really normal. Is anyone?”
I don’t think I need to post this picture of Karen in the wild, because she’s described it so well, but it’s too lovely not to share!