I wanted to mark the first time I got paid for something I wrote. I wanted to do more than just put the payment in the bank and make a tiny, imperceptible dent in the overdraft, which would be obliterated the very next time I paid the milkman. I wanted something to remember it by. So I made myself a necklace with a silver charm bearing the word “dream”.
This was to remind myself that I too have a dream, pardon the cliché: to write stories. I also got a silver bracelet made of links bearing inspirational words like success, celebrate, faith.
Making jewellery is a hobby of mine, although in the case of putting charms onto chains or bracelets, I think of it more as assembly. I recently wrote a gaslamp story, a new departure in genre for me. Since then – yes – I’ve started collecting bits and bobs to make steampunk jewellery. Why is so much of it based round Alice in Wonderland? Anyone?
I’ve got a problem with the bronze bracelet. Not that it’s crashingly ugly, yes it is, but I don’t mind that. No, it’s crashingly loud: it clatters and bangs when I type, so loud as to be distracting.
I’m not superstitious and I believe you make your own luck – up to a point – by spotting the opportunities and seizing the day. Apart from that it’s all down to chance. Also, despite the fact that I write a lot of fantasy fiction, I don’t believe in magic either. But, what I think of as my writing jewellery has got mixed up in my mind with being able to write. So on those too-frequent days when I sit in front of a blank page and nothing will come, I wear the jewellery (except for the steampunk bracelet) as part of a ritual. Before I start, I listen to “Uma Casa Portugesa” by Amália Rodrigues (no matter how many lessons I have, I’ll never be able to sing like Amália the Beautiful), it’s uplifting. Next comes “Running up that hill” by Kate Bush (would you believe I looked like her, thirty five years ago?) When my brain dries and extracting ideas is as easy as hauling a guinea worm out of a patient’s leg (wrapped round a pencil, writing gets in there, even – but I’ll spare you the image) I look at the pendant and the bracelet and remind myself that I can do it. That I can run up that hill. It’s all in the mind.
Then, it’s all down to what the Welsh call “hwyl”. Some say this is “an emotional quality which inspires and sustains impassioned eloquence”. Others that it’s “a sudden ecstatic inspiration, which carries the writer away on its wings, supplying her with burning words of eloquence, which in her calmer and normal state she could never have chosen for herself”. Like a nuclear bomb, where a bit of uranium is converted to vast energy, hwyl transforms the energy of ideas, but not to plodding, leaden work – to something crystalline, free-floating, sparkling. Hwyl is a clean bomb in the brain. Hwyl is a painless band round head squeezing the ideas out. At the same time, holding them back so they don’t all burst out at once.
I listen to Elgar’s Violin Concerto (if I could pick any day job, I’d be an orchestral musician – any instrument would do) while ideas flow from brain down superconducting fingers through the keyboard and onto the page. Then, 2000 words are written within moments. Quick! Get the rest done before the hwyl goes and the other voice, the one in my head every day, tells me that it’s rubbish.
Luckily, not everyone agrees with that other voice and I’ve had stories published in a variety of different places, including right here. And in August my very first book, a short story collection, was published.
Perhaps it was a joint effort on the part of Amalia, Kate, Sir Edward and the magic jewellery. And me. We’re all in it together.