Thursday, 19 June 2008


Several years ago I adopted Persephone as a guide to the creative life. I was finding life to be constant stress between writing and all other activities; whatever I was doing I was fretting that I wasn't doing something else. This became particularly acute in summer months when the desire to be OUT is so strong. I was advised to give up writing for six months. This was in the month of March. I found the experience so useful that I've followed it ever since and write only between the equinoxes (although sometimes I cheat in the summer, and am cheated in the winter). I must be the only person who greets the onset of dark evenings with a cheer. It did strike me that no one ever mentioned which part of Persephone's life she preferred, being with Ceres, her mother, or Pluto, her husband. I suspect she had no preference but enjoyed both.

Now that I am growing used to the regime, I begin to notice that the creative year in fact divides into quarters. I believe astronomers noticed this at the dawn of time, but I'm slow to catch up. There are the equinoxes and there are the solstices. As the summer solstice approaches in a few days' time, I find I am motivated to clear all the gumph off my desk, complete outstanding tasks and do my filing. Something inward is shifting towards winter and writing a new novel. High summer will be spent doing the research (that doesn't count as writing) and dwelling on the story (neither does that). Both can be done under the apple trees.

The two equinoctal divisions may be simply described as IN and OUT. Winter is the time to stay indoors and beaver at your keyboard. Summer is the time to be out on the veg plot. (This is a simplistic version of my life and takes no account of the multitude of other duties and activities, including earning a living.) The solstice division adds a little subtlety. Spring is OUT-OUT. All the seedlings to raise, nurture and plant, the plots to be dug, etc. Summer is OUT-IN. Not so much to do on the veg plot apart from weeding, watering and some late sowings. Autumn is IN-IN. Everything is inturned. The plants are harvested, the leaves drop from the trees, all the sap returns to the roots of both soul and soil. Then comes the winter solstice and the annoyance of Christmas - such a busy, disturbing time, but it heralds the quarter turn into new life. Winter is IN-OUT. Still writing, but now there are seed catalogues and potatoes arriving in the post. Snowdrops appear and then the celandines and, in March, I'll swop the pen for the dibber.