Walking the Catalan Camino to Tamarit

A couple of days ago, I walked from Tarragona or Tarraco near the Costa Daurada  in Catalunya (Catalonia) to the old Romanesque fort at Tamarit.

It was a walk of about 12km from my hotel in Tarragona down to the platja (beach), and up through the pine forests that hug the Mediterranean.

As I walked I was thinking; thinking about urban life versus the country or coastal country.

City life, life in Tarragona, Barcelona, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle, Paris, Madrid or any city is about pretence. It’s about keeping up appearences, about playing a type of game, the game of keeping everything going, always.

When you think about it, life in cities is always about the same thing; paying rent or paying the bank for your house, meeting friends, working or looking for work, or studying, watching the faces of people as they are consumed by their ‘business’, and meeting your own sort of hidden agendas. Life in cities is also about the dangerous game of ‘ego’; dressing the part, keeping up with the latest trends, having enough ‘stuff’ to fill the void of some type of existence. It’s also about protection, the guarding of one’s physical safety against the perpetrators of crime.

You get up, you get dressed in an outfit that will suit the type of day that you are expecting to have, you consume the fuel needed to keep the day going, you plan your meetings, your work, your study, your friendship time, your downtime and your evenings. You don’t hear the birds or admire the contours of the waves (no time), you’re a slave to your phone and your computer and the endless pointless emails that clutter up your inbox. You rush this way and that and you don’t notice that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing as you, wearing similar clothes, clutching similar style smart phones, a stressed, stretched face pinched with thought, tired with responsibility.

All for what.

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Now, back on the Camino de Tamarit, there I was, with my soft sports sandals, my skirt and top, my sunscreen and sunglasses, my bottle of water and a little bag, and I was in a pine forest with no one around and the Mediterranean on my right side as I walked. The earth was rugged and soft at the same time, the Mediterranean was rough and noisy. It was saying to me, keep going, just keep walking. And I did. I met no one, which surprised me. I walked on and on for 12km guided on by the patrins – the marks on the rocks which signalled the way.

My thoughts were; this is bliss, this is heaven, this is a non-judgmental space in which to just ‘be’. There is no one here to say – you’re just not good enough, you’re defective, you’re done, you’ve been made redundant, you’re useless, you’re can’t compete in that city world where image and competence is everything.

The scent of the pine forests reminded me of my dad and our holidays in Catalonia in the late 1960s and how he made me feel, safe and accepted, a little girl with absolutely nothing to fear. And now in 2018 in the Spanish pine forests that border the Mediterranean I felt at home, rid of the anxiety of trying to fit in. I felt safe and I made it to Tamarit as a storm broke and it started to rain.

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A private diary that’s not private

There is so much I want to say about being a writer. The industry – by that I mean the world of publishing, whether that is self or traditional and every last little associated add-on branch of the industry (prizes, competitions, writing retreats, literary agents, the BBC Writers’ Room website, writing opportunities, fellow authors, Mark Dawson’s advice, the Alliance of Independent Authors, Amazon’s algorithms), EVERYTHING causes me deep pain and sorrow.

These bits of the publishing ‘industry’ in the UK and the US are all good but everything feels ‘vulture-like’ and when I think about all these things I get sad.

Today I was looking at entering the Bridport Prize, and realised I would have to pay £20 to enter. A friend recently asked me to enter the Scottish Arts Prize competition, and for that you have to pay to enter. I recently entered two play opportunities and got knocked back.

I recently looked at my book sales and was met with a blistering ‘nothing’ – no sales.  I recently get another rejection from a literary agent in Oxford, not for her, she said. I want to get a foreign language publisher for my novel The Hidden which sold over 30,000 copies digitally. Surely that’s enough to impress an agent – apparently not!

I write because I love it, not for the fun of it. I would never call writing fun, it’s a need, a burning need – to express oneself, to tell a story, to pull the rock off some far-flung subject that’s been hidden for decade and retell the story. It’s about poetic description and soulful development, it’s about soothing a hurt, a deep, deep hurt that I am cloaked in every day.

When I write I step away from my life, myself and tell a story. When I step back into the real world and deal with the millions of emails that come in from every single sub-aspect of the publishing world, I want to slice a razor over my wrists and watch the blood flood the floor. I mean it. All I want to do is write. I don’t want to bother with any of the other stuff.

So does that mean – because I can never be an AUTHORPRENEUR – like Mark Dawson or Rachel Abbott – I can never be anything? That’s what it feels like, that I am nothing, but I know and have heard that my writing, my stories moves people to tears and that they love my work, that people want me to write more stories, but how can I when I am penniless and absolutely nobody cares.

Writing with that feeling of doom leaden in the soul is achingly hard. It feels like lifting a building up over your head.

I am just one writer of millions who feels the same. Why should anyone help me? Help yourself I am told. But I can’t do it, I can’t do anything but write stories. I am not a MumPreneur , and AuthorPreneur, or an Entrepreneur. I am a writer of stories and I write well and make people cry with emotion. That’s about all I can do.

 

Press down, give up, breathe

Dear Life, today you’re pressing down on me. All I want to do is sit quietly in my flat and stare. There you are pressing down on me, on my heart. I have thoughts of giving up, of finally admitting that I don’t have what it takes to be a player in this world. I don’t even know what that means.

What does giving up mean? Perhaps, if the cold, raw truth is uttered, it means this: that I am tired of trying, tired of trying to fit myself – the square peg – into the round hole; that I never ever fit and that my edges are sore from trying.

So giving up means what? Does it mean never writing another word again? Does it mean never writing another story, never publishing anything, never speaking again, never feeling any passion? Does it mean selling all my beloved books and never, ever holding them in my hands again? That’s the pressing down on me.

I don’t know what this life wants from me? There’s the horrific Empire Windrush story in the news, the denying of rights of our beloved friends from Caribbean countries who built Britain to become the place it is today, and yet here is a government who cares nothing for them and pays only lip service to past wrongs with falsity smeared all over their faces.

There’s the chemical attacks in Syria and the insanity of people in power. There is in me a desire to do damage to names like Assad, Trump, Putin and May. But I am powerless. I am nothing. I write little novels and so, the fuck, what.

We talk about our worlds, our lives – make good in your own little world and that’s about all you can do. But then all I can think of today is powerlessness and giving up. My voice is getting weaker and weaker. Surely that must be a reason to get angry, that I am voiceless but a big voice needs a stage and people who want to listen, otherwise it’s just a big voice in a desert.

The characters in my novels are often voiceless, until they find their voices and bring about change. They are never pressed down upon, they never want to give up, they always breathe.