|Porsha having a spell in a cauldron.|
If you can get beyond Trick or Treating, the same schlocky horror films being trotted out on TV and the sight of Christmas already being on sale, this is a special time of year.
The Celts called this time Samhain (often pronounced Sow-een or Sow-en, although there are other interpretations) – one of the eight festivals that marked the wheel of the year.
Samhain marks summer’s end, when winter begins (there were only two seasons). For Christians, 1st November is All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day, which is where Halloween gets its name.
The marking of a special day, ether personally or collectively, is a pause point in the flow of life. It can be a day of reflection, dedication, gratitude, celebration or commemoration. What matters is that we interrupt the usual rhythm and take ourselves into a different frame of mind. If we’re lucky, we gain perspective. Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we might even make changes or decisions because we’re able to see things more clearly.
For writers, tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month, where intrepid writers – first timers and dedicated followers of the craft – commit (to themselves) to producing 50,000 words in a month. If you are signing up (don’t worry, it’s not a cult although it might seem like it on the forums!), take some time today to reflect on the writing you plan to start or continue.
The tagline on the NaNoWriMo website reads: The world needs your novel. It’s not the usual message that writers hear. More frequently we hear about the self-publishing vs traditional publishing debate, or the huge advances for famous or renowned authors (they’re not the same thing!), or the swarm drone of social media that insists there is a fool-proof way to make your mark with your book – with any book in fact.
Put all that aside today. In between bobbing for apples, eating lurid gooey cakes, carving out pumpkins, dressing up as a skeleton or lighting candles, find time to consider that sentence: The world needs your novel. Treat that as your touchstone when you think about why you’re taking up the pen or the keyboard. You will spend many hours writing and, eventually, editing.
You will face setbacks, crises of confidence (in both directions), and you will take time away from other things to work on your book. Make your words count. Write honestly and fearlessly. Write from the depths of yourself – your truth, your pain, your longing and your deepest and most fragile joys. Create from your regrets, your secret triumphs and your wildest imaginings. Search your soul to produce a novel that the world truly needs; one that enriches, delights, challenges, terrifies, comforts, mesmerises… Make the world a different place and your readers different people for having had the good fortune to read the story you unearthed. That’s what good writing is – life changing. When we’re touched by a book we’re touched forever.
It doesn’t matter if someone disagrees with your use of the comma and the semi-colon; not really. It doesn’t matter if someone hates what you’ve written, or mocks it. Real writing makes people more real; it gives them that permission. That’s the power of words.
My challenge this November is to produce another 30,000 words for The Caretaker, the third in a Brit thriller series. Today, as you read this, I’ll be in Glastonbury, Somerset. If you happen to be at Chalice Well Gardens around 11am and you see someone in quiet reflection, interspersed with feverish note-writing into an A4 notepad, that’ll be me preparing for November 1st. By all means say hello!