Last week, I went back to London.
London… filthy metropolis, a chaotic madness of people, an urban tension that delights, repels, terrifies me. The place that inspired the story that went on to become Twenty Years Later.
I went there for a business meeting, and ended up travelling out of the city on the same route that I used as a commuter. I had the most intense flashback to those evening journeys, tired from a day of teaching, rushing to get a seat so I could spend that 25 minutes working on the first draft of the book.
It was the smell of the carriage that did it; nothing had changed about it since that crazy time. Those twenty six days when I was writing a chapter a day – an average of three to four thousand words daily even though I was a full-time teacher. It flowed out of me, like the prayers of an atheist in the moments before a car crash; raw, unbidden, unstoppable words straight from the deepest part of me. My conscious brain was so uninvolved when I was in the flow of it. Oh, such sweet days before I was convinced to seek publication and this heroic quest began. It was a private romance between myself, the story and London, all around me, every day.
When I found myself fired back into that time, I realised how habitual my writing was back then. Every day the morning commute was an hour in total when I would think about where I was in the story and what the characters were going to do next. I listened to their voices. I looked out of the window over the grim tenements of north London and saw it silent and still, filled with dust and bones. That perspective from the window made it so easy; moving too quickly to see the details of people and their activity. Only the buildings and the marks left by people could be seen.
My life is so different now, and oh, I miss that time, for so many reasons that drag heavy regrets behind them. Here they come, crowding in around me at my computer as I talk write to you. They’re jostling, poking me in the ribs. Trying to make me cry.
But I won’t. For every one of these moaning regrets there is a new aspect of my life to act as a salve, and as always, possibility. And all of you, my lovely ones, all of you to keep me going. And I want to ask you to join me in something exciting – well, I think it is anyway.
I’d like you to be part of something I’ve designed to bring some of that good habit making back into my life, with a large dollop of creamy social goodness stirred in for good measure.
I’m starting a short story club. You can read all about it here, but the heart of it is simple:
You inspire me
I write you a story a month
Only members get to read them
You can read all about it, and sign up if you wish over here. If you like the look of it, tell your friends, put the word out. I want this to become a wonderful, life-filled thing. It needs people to make it work. I’ll put out the first call for inspiration in a couple of days time.
So why am I doing this? Well, there are a few reasons, which are talked about on that page I mentioned. But the main one is this:
I want to make you feel special.
And is that because I am a selfless, saintly writer who only lives to serve? Well, not exactly. What I get out of it is habit, accountability and the happy warm squidgy feeling that comes from knowing that people are getting something special that only I can give. Not just any old people; people who are contributing to the process, who are really beside me on this journey. People like you, who stay right to the end of the post, even though there is often nothing here except the end.
Not even a lollipop.