Life on the other side

I’m just back from Aracena, an hour’s drive from Seville. I spent the last week running a Dark Angels writing course with my friend Andy. This annual week at a finca in the sierra has become a highlight of my year. On the taxi drive home from the airport, I was making plans for 2020. Even though I’m still processing the 2019 experience.

As always, we had a wonderfully diverse group of writers. Some have been writing commercially and creatively for decades. Others are coming to the page much later in life. It doesn’t matter. We write together, try together, “fail” together, “succeed” together, and thereby learn together.

A long time ago, I took the same course in the same finca. Back then, I was a student, or participant – not a tutor. (And it really does feel a long time ago) As soon as I came home, I put my dog into the car, drove to Camber Sands, my local beach, and drew a line in the sand with the heel of my boot. I decided that on the other side of that line, my relationship with writing would be different. Then I stepped over the line.

On the other side of that line, life has been different. I have a new dog, for one. As I type this, she’s sitting under my desk, chewing a pile of Post-It notes from a recent client workshop. Two of my children have left home – one moved out for university while I was in Spain, and I was very sad not to be around to help her.

More relevant to the pledge I made to myself when I stepped over the line, the role that writing plays in my life has changed too. As it has changed, I’ve often thought back to that day on the beach. It was a simple action, but it has a symbolic magic for me.

Coming back from Spain this year, I felt the need to renew my pledge. So this morning my dog and I went to the local woods – there was too much rain for the beach – and I drew a new line with the heel of my boot. Then I paused, took a deep breath, and stepped over it, repeating a simple commitment to myself as I did so.

There’s no need to share what my pledge was. It’s a personal thing. The important thing is to have made it, and to have built a bit of ritual around it. If you’re reading this and want to renew your commitment to your own creative practice, I’d recommend performing a symbolic act of your own. Draw a line and step over it. Find out what life is like on the other side.