Wild or crazy?

As a psychotherapist I’ve worked in hospitals for people sectioned for serious crimes, and written the start of a novel, ‘Phoenix: Supersensitive’, based around that.

My fellow tutor at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year was Simon Hall, the BBC’s crime correspondent for the South West, and author of ‘The TV Detective’ novels. We’ve both been on the crime front line.  Fertile ground, I felt, for a discussion about the ‘wild’ in our characters (and in ourselves for that matter). Simon has this to say about wildness in character…

For crime writers, wildness is particularly important. Whether it’s the momentary loss of control, or the long held dissociation from the world that leads to the breaching of society’s conventions…. And there’s wildness in the good guys and girls, too. Something has to drive them to track down the baddies, often well beyond the call of duty, breaking the rules and imperilling themselves at the same time.

My experience of the world as both journalist and author makes me believe there’s wildness in us all – it’s just a question of how deeply buried, how afraid we are of letting it loose… and what the consequences might be if we do.   

He’s defining wild as the animal part of us. It resides underneath, and is often bridled by, convention.

It’s the part of ourselves that we fear, and restrain, even before society does that for us.

Looking at how it can manifest, we might say that we have good reason to fear its destructive qualities. Certainly, the patients I worked with could be said to be a case in point. Those that had strangled their children, habitually swallowed knives or set fires to their rooms, I sometimes heard described as ‘wild’.

But were they truly wild? The use of the word in that context always bothered me.

They bore little resemblance to the ‘wild’ I saw in the sleek fur of the wild cat I glimpsed when I walked in the forest on my days off. An animal in the wild often looks healthy. Cutting your stomach up, or trying to hang yourself doesn’t make you look at all well, believe me.

Certainly, in one way, my patients were ‘wild’. No differently to every human and non-human animal, their lives were a heroic mission to firstly survive, and then to thrive, enacted largely unconsciously. Often, they had survived because they told stories- stories of escape and freedom when they were trapped in unbearable situations. When things were about as bad as they could get, it was that so-called ‘primitive’ part of themselves that had led them out.

However, in the case of my patients, often the strategies that had once enabled them to survive, had become outdated, inflexible or stuck.

The ‘wildness’ had become corrupted into ‘craziness’, a disconnection from reality, rather than a working in harmony with it.

Most of us, thankfully, never have to resort to the types of extreme actions that Simon or I observe in our work, or fictionalise on the page. However, we all have a journey to do to re-find our wild writer. We’re aiming at connection and balance, rather than disconnection. Then, rather than getting lost in our stories, we’ll get found through them. When we can locate true wildness in ourselves, we’re a damn sight more likely to be able to write that riveting, emotionally charged way of being on to the page.

Write a character sketch or short story piece about a character that has to respond to extreme circumstances (a threat to their physical or emotional life) with extreme actions.

You might also like to think about how these events might echo through their life afterwards, and impact upon it.

Nature writing in brief: Haiku

To write words that live, breathe and jump off the page, we first have to discover, or re-discover, an attitude of wonder and revelation in relation to the world around us. The writers in the Japanese tradition of Haiku, were masters of this.

For those of you unfamiliar with Haiku, it’s a poem composed of three lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables. Traditionally, it also contains a word to denote the season. Another of it’s defining features is the presence of the 'aha moment'- that moment of revelation in which we look in wonder at the world around us, as it reveals itself in all its glory. The 'aha moment', is a very short, fleeting moment, in which a human being catches a glimpse of what we could call'world harmony'.

I believe that the power of the Haiku comes from the juxtaposition of largely uninflected images, which allow us to make metaphorical connections, to join one realm of our experience with another. The less abstract allows us to know the feeling tones of the more abstract.

In these three examples below, notice how much emotion the poet Basho infuses into a few lines. See also how he seeks out symbols in nature to act as metaphors for his feeling states. In the first Haiku, notice how ‘The cherry flakes falling’ symbolises, and makes real to the reader, the more abstract quality of a singing voice.

If I’d the knack

I’d sing like

cherry flakes falling.



caged cricket dangling

from the wall.


Friends part

forever--wild geese

lost in cloud.


               Basho ‘Haiku’

Jane Reichhold has written a helpful article on how to master ‘Haiku Techniques’.  You might want to refer to it as you undertake this week’s writing assignment.

The Weekly Writing Prompt

Write three haiku (or more if you feel inspired). Within the three lines, a strong emotion should be expressed, juxtaposed with a natural image that stands as a metaphor for that emotion. Instead of directly stating the emotion, you can also contrast two images to create an emotional affect, as, for example, in the first of Basho’s haiku above.

If you’d like to send them to me, I’d be delighted to read them. Also feel free to share your experiences of ‘Haiku’ on this page. 

The path of least resistance

In the opening of his book ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ Robert Fritz tells us an interesting fact about the city of Boston. ‘The Boston roads were actually formed by utilizing cow paths. The cow moving through the topography tended to move where it was immediately easiest to move… Each time cows passed through the same area, it became easier for them to take the same path they had taken the last time, because the path became more and more clearly defined... As a result, city planning in Boston gravitates around the mentality of the seventeenth-century cow’.

He takes this fascinating fact as a starting point for a discussion on how we can create pathways to achieve our personal and professional goals.

The challenging terrain of our lives can include mountains of expectations, rivers of anxious thoughts, and the bogged ground of habits. There is an art to moving with ease, and navigating with flow. It makes sense to put in place a structure that supports us to find the easiest route through.

Often, we need to start by being really honest with ourselves. For example, I think I want to write words that are brave, and vivid, but when I look closer I realise that I have great deal to lose by writing in a way that challenges society, or my family. Until this conflict is resolved, the energy will not move along the path I intend, because it is not the path of least resistance.  If I keep trying to meet an unrealistic target, and continually fail, my confidence will spiral downwards.

The Weekly Writing Prompt

Take a walk outside. Follow any paths of animals, or other wild things (for example: water and wind) that you come across. Notice how they flow around natural obstacles- how they make their lives as easy as possible. Write a poem, or piece of prose about it.

How is this experience of nature a metaphor for your writing life? It might help to ask the following questions:

-What is it like, the terrain of my life?

-What obstacles are there?

-In which ways do I choose the difficult paths?

-What would it mean to take ‘the path of least resistance’?

-How could I set up my life so that the easiest route through is the one most clearly signed?


I'm on a quest to connect with the untamed world, release the wild words, and discover the wild self. Continued from last week…

I strode for twenty minutes along the unmade road that leads straight into the damp crevice of the gorge, under the shadow of the mountain.

My clicking, grinding thoughts, that inner film, continued to roll. And it was a horror film. There were men in balaclavas, drunken gangs of youths, wild boar, and hungry bears. They whooped and snarled and shrieked their war cries as they came at me from the dark places. I covered my ears with my hands and screamed.

At that moment, quite suddenly, the fears released like smoke into the air, and the film flickered to a stop. I was left alone in the night. Now I saw different things. I saw one small star signal from behind a cloud. I heard the night bird resume its comforting call. I heard the rustle of a small creature in the undergrowth, seeking a warm place for the night.

And now. It was another of Byron’s poems ‘She Walks In Beauty’, that came to mind, his description of a night of ‘cloudless climes and starry skies’.

And I remembered Mary Oliver’s work. She describes the coming of the light after ‘Sleeping In The Forest’,

‘By morning 

I had vanished at least a dozen times 

into something better.’

I realised that my days are always full and light, sometimes too bright. My eyes get tired from seeing too much. Now I was bathing in the pleasure of the restful dark, the silence and the stillness. And had it not been so cold, I might have sat down to enjoy the presence of the absence, in which all felt possible.

When I returned to the house later that night, I felt the strength of a true warrior, and slept with the contentment of someone who feels truly safe. There is nothing so fortifying as refusing to run away in the face of fear. 


Last night, late, I went and stood outside. I hoped to be exhilarated under a canopy of stars, but instead I was met by thick-hanging cloud. The sliver of the waxing crescent that was the moon, gave out little light, and my heart sank. Without a visual anchor my body and mind flailed, disoriented by the all-consuming darkness. My hand reached out, and I found the gravelly exterior wall of the house.

I thought of Byron’s poem ‘Darkness’ in which he dreams,

‘The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space’

My other senses swiftly moved in to stabilise me. I heard the river rushing about its secret midnight business. An owl hooted. The clouds deadened each noise that arose, and I was acutely aware of the silence, the stillness, and the absence. Strangely, for being in such a vast space, I felt short of air, as if I was locked in a broom cupboard. Fear swept in, bringing terror of what I couldn’t see, of what might come at me from the shadows of the bushes.

On the blank canvas of the night, the fears that had arisen and fallen during a difficult day found an exit point. It was not unlike a film set in motion. My thoughts clicked and ground their way out, as if from an antiquated cinema projector. I watched as the flickering images were cast on to the night.

The editor I hadn’t managed to please during the day was re-imagined as a poisonous snake falling from the tree above. The writing deadline I had missed was re-cast as the bloodthirsty hands of the ivy that I felt stretching for my legs. The corrupted computer software was re-invented as the antlers of a rabid stag that I thought I saw in the shadows.

However, I know from experience that it is better, whenever possible, to move towards fear rather than run away and let it chase me. I sensed also, last night, that there was something quite important about watching as my fears played themselves out.

So, I reminded myself of what I believe, that provided I respect her, nature will nourish and take care of me. Then, I set off to go for a walk into the darkness…


  Tired of staring at the computer screen, I decide I should practice what I preach. I put my coat on, and carrying my empty teacup for comfort, I take my notebook out into the garden. I will write something. There’s a broken trampoline, rusted into the ground. It has a surface like black oil, and a lopsided gait. I scramble up, and sit in the centre of the almost-circle.

The last of the precious winter sun is weak on my face. Falling, falling…now clipping the top of the mountain. The river gushes. The air is sharp on my cheek. The hungry howls of the hunting dogs in the kennels on the mountainside are ghosts in the cold air. The church bells chime, their intonation definitively French.  My body tremors, physical energy trapped by too much static work. And the sun keeps falling. I have terror of the loss of the light. I think- I should write something inspiring about this, and heat rises in my chest.

But instead, I fall back on the sprung support of the trampoline, and my vision fills with the sky. A uniform block of mid-blue.  It too is fading, washing out the day. I think -when the sun goes behind that mountain, there will be nothing good left in this world to write about .

But anyway, I do not want to write. I want to hurl the teacup against the encrusted metal springs and hear it smash, or perhaps jump really hard and high on this trampoline- with my shoes on. This impulse to smash and crash, I feel it dissolve in the instant of becoming. I have years of practice of not acting upon such impulses. After all, proper grown-ups do not jump on trampolines in the winter sun on a Tuesday afternoon in February, certainly not with their shoes on.

But hell, I’m going to do it, jump as high as I can before the sun is gone. The sharp outbreath, and heavy clunk of shoes striking canvas. The wheezing of springs. Cold air scrapes at my lungs. I spin and take in 360 degrees of this world. Higher and higher, the ground recedes further with every jump.  And then, quite suddenly, the sun drops like a weight and colour washes out of the world. My energy evaporates with it and I fall prone on the trampoline.

The echo of the jumping is a soft vibration that rocks me. I hear the speeding traffic. And I think, I’d better get up now and do something. A solitary black crow, heavy-winged, trudges across the vacant sky. I don’t get up. Instead I curl up foetus-like and pull my hat over my eyes. I will hide. I will sleep.

The dusk creeps in and in moments my fingers are ice pops. Soon, I believe, the river will freeze in mid gush, and I too, will petrify here. All will be silent darkness. Until the sun arrives to thaw us.




  This weekend, I’m going up into the high mountains of the Pyrenees to bathe in the wild pools of warm sulphurous waters that bubble naturally from fissures in the rock.  This act of flight is in response to spending too much time at my computer. Making contact with ‘wildness’, as a source of strength for life and writing, has recently become a little too theoretical. And because of that, when I read my writing, it seems to have lost a little of its soul.

The final death-knell to my computer discipline occurred when I came across two poems that described the torment of caged animals…or was it this caged writer they were speaking to?

The first was Maya Angelou’s poem ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. Here, the lines that most struck me were:

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

When we are frustrated in our life, or writing, the impasse created in the tension between the hopes that urge us forward, and the fear that holds us back, is agonising to experience, and heart-rending to observe in others.

The second poem that spoke to me was Rilke’s ‘The Panther’.

It seems to him there are

a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

These lines describe terror, and the absence of hope. It’s a feeling we’ve probably all known at some point, but which we pray never to come across again…

The mighty will stands paralyzed

Here is the physical freezing of the panther’s muscles. His system becomes trapped in perpetual helplessness at the continual repression of his wild nature. In the poem the mechanism is a literal cage, but in writers it can be a multitude of perceived threats, both real and imagined. And physical block always translates into mental fear and block.

However, it was the final stanza of ‘The Panther’ that really took my breath away. How beautifully Rilke captures the fleeting emotion in the eye of the panther, and what a yearning this too sets up in the heart of the reader. I’ll leave you with those lines. In order to break out of my own cage, and to satisfy my own yearning for wild, I’m off with my notebook to the high peaks of the French Pyrenees.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils

lifts, quietly--. An image enters in,

rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,

plunges into the heart and is gone


The Weekly Prompt

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

Imagine ‘the hopes that urge us forward’, and ‘the fear that holds us back’ are two characters. What would they look like? How would they walk and speak? What other physical mannerisms might they have? Once you have fully formed image of them in your mind’s eye, spend fifteen minutes describing a conversation between these two characters.

As always, if you’d like to send it to me, I’d be delighted to read it. 

Writing and Making Music

I’ve been having a conversation with my friend, the writer and journalist Noel Harvey. This week I want to quote his words… “Craft can be taught in a classroom, or learnt from a book, but the art must then be practised. If a writer doesn’t understand that adverbs often warrant criminal proceedings; that adjectives must to be used with prudence, that verbs hold the power, that invoking the senses is critically important, he can be taught these things. But being, feeling, observing, sensing – you cannot teach this. You must experience it for yourself.

It’s the bit that comes from the heart and soul, from the feelings if you like. And ultimately it’s where the power lies. Just as an artist understands paint and materials and perspective, and light, and wood carvers understand chisels and wood and varnishes, so good writers understand adjectives and verbs and punctuation and plot lines. But this understanding alone will not create powerful art.

But you can, I think, help people open up to it, to develop their sensitivity, to tap into their feelings, and find ways to convey them. And then the artist can say ah! This is the feeling I want to convey. This is what I want my audience to feel. This wretchedness/ecstasy/boredom/revulsion whatever it is.

You could say, ‘I’m miserable, and sleepy, and I can’t feel anything.’

Or you could say, as Keats did in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’,

‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains’

Same stuff on the inside, but look at how you respond to each of these pieces.

Here’s an extract from an interview I did with the guitarist Andy McKee. He was and is, an excellent technical musician, but was getting very little recognition:

‘Of course there’s always a phase where you’ll want to develop some technical mastery of the guitar’, he says, ‘but you don’t want to be lost on that for the rest of your life’.

In the words of Andy McKee, what we need to recognise when we read, or listen to music, is that, first and foremost,

‘It’s the beauty that hits you.’  ”

The Weekly Prompt

Refer to the Keats Poem ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. What is it, in your opinion, that brings these words to life, that makes them sing?

Write a piece of poetry or prose, inspired by this poem.

Ark - The Shah of Blah 2

In the opening of ‘Haroun and The Sea of Stories’, by Salman Rushdie, Haroun shouts at his father,“What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” When he does this, he not only questions his father’s storytelling abilities, but also his perspective on reality. As a result of this, Rashid questions himself, and becomes blocked. As for many writers, Rashid’s gift of words is more than just a livelihood, it’s a reason for existing.

As writers one of our steepest challenges is how to justify, to others, or to ourselves, that sitting alone in a room with only our imagination and a computer for company is a valid occupation.

If we’re writing a novel, it may take several years before we see any financial return, the physical evidence to justify the claim that we are a ‘writer’. In that time, there may only be one or two people- an editor and a fellow writer, for example- who are in our corner, supporting our efforts. And sometimes there is no one at all in our corner. It’s one thing to have no support from the outside world, but when we become blocked and stop writing it’s also usually because we’ve abandoned ourselves.

As far as I’m concerned, if you consistently practice the craft of writing, you deserve to be called a writer. Anyone can have a good idea for a book. However, to overcome the doubts that plague us sufficiently to do the hard graft that results in 350 pages, that’s what divides the ideas merchant from the true writer.

And how to overcome those doubts? Firstly, think less and keep writing. Drop down into the physical experience of how it is to feel the keyboard under your fingertips and smell the cup of coffee beside you.

Secondly, remember perseverance is everything. Richard Bach was told, “nobody will want to read a book about a seagull”. ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ went on to sell 44 million copies. And there are many similar stories. You may find this a useful website:

The Weekly Prompt

If you feel uninspired or blocked in your writing, try this. Write a piece of prose or poetry on the subject of ‘my writing environment’. Make use of all the senses. Describe smells, sounds, colours, textures, and tastes. Afterwards, come back to your current writing project. How is the process different?


Writer’s block is the inability to produce new work. It comes in many shades, from abandoning a writing career because we’ve dried up, to just feeling that our writing doesn’t do what we want it to do, or convey what we want it to convey. It can leave us feeling frustrated, angry, miserable, half-alive. ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ by Salman Rushdie, opens with just such a scenario.

Haroun’s father, Rashid, is a famous storyteller, known as ‘The Oceans of Notions’ to those who admire his talent, and ‘The Shah of Blah’ to those who don’t. One day Haroun arrives home from school to find his father crying. His mother has run away with Mr Sengupta, who lives upstairs. Haroun says a terrible thing to his father- “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?”

When Rashid then tries to tell a story, no words come out. He takes his son on a storytelling job for the politicos, but the only words that come out are ‘Ark ark ark’. The people are very angry and threaten to cut out his tongue.

We may not identify with this specific scenario, but many of us know the emotional underpinning- that anguished, frustrated place of block.

Writing wild words is about moving from stuckness to fluidity and re-finding our creative expression. Next week I’ll talk about how Rashid came to understand the source of his muteness.


The Weekly Prompt

“What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?”

A provocative statement. Write your own ‘true’, or ‘fabricated’ story/words on this subject. As ever, I’d be delighted to read them.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

I’ve been buying Christmas presents. In trawling the online bookshops for children’s books that my nephew and niece don’t already have, I came across one that I am already familiar with. You can find it on the edge of the clearing in the forest where I hold the Wild Words workshop days here in France. It sits, alongside much heavier adult-oriented texts on psychology and writing, on the improvised outdoor bookshelf that is constructed from the thoughtfully angled branches of the grandest oak tree around. The book is ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. It’s a skilfully crafted story. As you read, the words fall like the rhythmic footsteps you make as you walk alongside the fictional family, in their quest to locate the bear.

“We’re going on a bear hunt.  We’re going to catch a big one.  What a beautiful day!  We’re not scared”. 

That optimistic tone is often what I hear from workshop participants at the start of a Wild Words day, often accompanied by a little nervousness.

In the book, as we journey deeper, and the explorers draw closer to the bear cave, the obstacles are increasingly foreboding, and frightening.

“Uh-oh! … a snowstorm, a swirling, whirling, snowstorm. We can’t go over it.  We can’t go under it.  Oh, no!  We’ve got to go through it!”. 

In our search for the Wild Words, as in any hunt for a wild animal, it’s true that unconsciously we’d do anything rather than come face to face with the void that is freedom of expression. But, in the end, if we want to find flow in our writing, there’s nothing for it but to look those Wild Words in the face.

‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ is inspiring in this respect. This is especially true if, rather than head straight for the book, you watch Michael Rosen perform his own story.

The humour, the rhythm, the life of it. It’s a joy.

The Weekly Prompt

Imagine that your quest to free up your writing, or to be a better writer, is a physical journey in the real world. Write the story of this journey, in prose or poetry. What is the landscape like? What are the obstacles in your path? What do the Wild Words look like when you find them?

If you’d like to send me what you come up with, I’d be delighted to read it.

Jed, the Blocked Writer

A year ago, a stooped 27 year-old man came to me for poetry tuition. He had a mop of black hair and smelled of spirits. He came because his father had read my CV, and thought, that with my qualifications, I might be able to help his son.

Jed told me that all he wanted to do was to be a poet, but ‘nothing comes out right’.  He didn’t care about my qualifications, but he liked the concept of writing ‘Wild Words’. He said it would be nice to feel like a wild animal when he wrote, but instead, he usually felt more like his little brother’s hamster, going round and round on its wheel.

As we talked, he asked me crossly why I hadn’t yet asked to see his writing, and motioned to the groaning backpack sitting at his feet.

But I didn’t need to look at his writing to understand what was going on, I only had to look at his body. His skin was sickly white. His hands were blue with cold, even though the room was warm. Sometimes, when he told me about the subject of his poetry, colour rose in his cheeks, but it was quickly followed by a deflation of his body, and a draining of colour. And then of course, there was the smell of alcohol.

He asked me, even more angrily, why I hadn’t asked him for the reasons for his ‘writer’s block’, the reason he couldn’t write well. I said that I was sure he already knew the reason, and that he’d probably already thought through it a thousand times, to no avail. I was going to try a different approach. He looked sceptical.

He told me the reason anyway. Apparently, his father was a well-known poet. ‘I’m scared that I will never write like my father’ he said. ‘And it’s seizing me up’.

I asked him then to remember a time when he did write well, when the words flowed. He told me about a writing competition he had won when he was twelve. I invited him to close his eyes, to remember that experience, and to see how it felt in his body. He told me he felt a warmth, a relaxation spreading from his chest out through his limbs.

Next, I asked him to think about a time when he sat down to write but felt blocked. Where in his body was that physical sense of block? He told me it was in his stomach. At this point he started telling me again about his fears of not matching up to his father’s success. I told him not to think, but to just stay with his bodily experience. If he scanned his body, despite the feeling of block in his chest, was there a place where he still felt the warmth or movement from the writing competition experience? He said yes, there was. It was in his hand. I then got him to move his attention back and forth between his stomach and his hand, touching into the block, and then back again to a place of relaxation.

Through doing this in the session, and by practicing it at home, he gradually found that he could pick away at the edges of the feeling of block his stomach, and integrate it with the feeling of flow in his hand. Eventually that enabled him to find flow in the whole of his body. This process led spontaneously to writing ideas flowing from his body on to the paper. He was an unblocked writer.

The day this happened, he called me immediately. He was excited and laughing, but also confused. He told me, ‘I’m writing, the words won’t stop coming, but now I have another problem, I’m writing a comedy screenplay, not poetry. That’s not what I want to write. I’ve always wanted to be a poet’.

The psychotherapist Peter Levine has a saying- ‘The body knows’.

This is what I told him. Your body knows what it needs to say. From then, my work with Jed, which lasted six sessions, became about helping him to find his own voice, rather than meeting his father’s expectations, or trying to follow in his footsteps.

The Weekly Prompt

Write a 1000 word prose piece, or a poem, using the prompt ‘The Body Knows’.

As always, I’d be delighted to read what you come up with, if you’d like to send it to me. 

Writing Outdoors

The other week I taught a workshop on ‘writing in the wild’. In the opening circle, everyone said that they habitually wrote indoors, and at least one writer admitted to nervousness at the thought of trying something different. She’d woken up in a cold sweat the previous night, having had nightmares of being devoured by big, hairy, sharp-clawed Wild Words that hid in trees. As she described this, tight laughter juddered across the room. There are, in fact, many reasons to take your lunch hour in the park with a laptop, to climb out of your bedroom at midnight with your notepad tucked into your trousers, or to take your holidays in the country, rather than falling for the all-too-tempting city break in Belarus (although I’ve heard credible reports of all manner of wild things in Belarus).

Most of us live and write indoors, in controlled environments. Opening ourselves up to that-which-we-cannot-control, being in contact with new and unexpected stimuli, and seeing, at first hand, the instinctual at work, can profoundly affect our writing.

At the end of the workshop, the ‘nervous’ writer put this on her feedback form:

‘At first it was hard. Everything was unfamiliar, the way my body felt after we’d walked two hours, the landscape, and the deluge of sensory impressions. But that newness was exactly the point, exactly what expanded my world today. Today I became an animal, feeling and sensing my way in my environment. And the words followed’.

At the end of the workshop we came up with a communal list of reasons to write outdoors, which I have pinned to my wall:

…because we want to be as passionate as Anais Nin

…because we want to be as awe filled as Mary Oliver

…because we want to dream as vividly as William Blake

…because we want to look as cool in our slacks as Ernest Hemingway

…because we want to look as hip in our shades as Bruce Chatwin

And because the best way to defend from enemy fire is by tucking a moleskin notebook into the pocket over your heart. Oh yes…