It must be a rare occasion when one can recognise a life-enhancing moment as it happens, and yet that is what I was fortunate enough to have experienced last week. A mind-broadening, horizon-widening conversation that I now must have the the courage to truly recognise as the inspirational occurrence that it was and to take action.
One evening last week, I spent a treasured hour and a half of my boyfriend's father's precious time. J (my boyfriend) is an intensely private person and so I have refrained from dipping my toe into his very deep waters, but I am moved to plunge into the depths that are the Hope family. Christopher Hope is a writer of such enormous talent that I feel honoured to have discussed writing with him and certainly that occasionally reads this nonsense blog.
Christopher (henceforth referred to as 'CH' to save my fingertips) lives near Carcassone but was in London briefly to meet his agent and publisher in the run up to the publication of his new novel, 'My Mother's Lovers'. He had a little time to spare and so we met up for what was an extraordinary evening, for me at least.
CH suffered my questions about how he writes a novel, from the discipline of physically writing to the frustrations and complete obsession with one's emerging piece. It is as if the characters in his novels are shifting sands that develop and move in relation to one another which CH relates to a game of chess. CH spends periods of time in his native South Africa in isolation, devoted to pouring out his emerging story from dusk 'til dark, to the extent that on his last trip, a relative expressed concerns that Christopher was having an affair. And in many ways he was. In essence he was in love, absorbed by the characters and the lives that he had created.
The latest book was three and a half years in the making and he has devoted the magnitude of that amount of head-space in two little words that barely fill a hundredth of the title page - "to Jasper". To his son.
And why was this conversation so powerful, so able to make me nervous and excited at the same time? Because it is the first time that such a talented writer has shared thoughts about their art and, more significantly, has given me encouragement. "Have courage" were CH's enduring words. Yes I am a hopeless novice but be brave. Broaden out. Read beyond your current parameters. Expand your mind. Take encouragement from every quarter and have the courage to allow your mind to create. And the last step - to allow your fingertips to pour the creation out onto the page.
I was, indeed am, excited but also incredibly nervous. Only I can make the effort to learn, to change, to improve. Will I have the courage to bare my soul in the way that writers like CH do, to open myself up to the opinions and criticism of others? Will I ever be able to find any talent and then a vehicle to use it? Only time will tell. Just don't expect too much now that I have shared my fears with you.