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Life in the big smoke

Goodbye November, hello December

I wrote this yesterday.

Last day of November. It’s storming outside, the wind is bouncing between the block of flats I live in and the one of the other side of the rail road tracks. It’s hitting windows and scraping tree branches along the walls. Sometimes a train rushes past. I hardly hear them anymore and only notice if it’s a big freight train screaming and whooshing.

London is still grey and it’s getting colder. I’ve spent the day transcribing an interview. I don’t often record the interviews I do anymore, but I’m glad I had this one on tape. There are good quotes that will only work verbatim.

December is falling into place and it makes me happy. I’ve started scheduling things and it’s a relief to know what will happen when instead of staring down a huge pile of stuff that just has to be done at some point. I think the most stressful part of being a journalist is the period before a story comes together, before I’ve started booking the interviews, when everything is still an idea. As soon as I know who I’m going to speak to and when I start relaxing, then I know it’s possible.

I’m starting to realise it’s the same with creative writing. I’ve come up with a new system. I need to know exactly what happens, from every characters’ point of view, throughout the whole book. The more I know the more precise I can be when I’m telling the story. In my previous attempts at writing creatively I’ve always been rushing, trying to get the story out as quickly as possible, because otherwise I fear I might lose it somewhere along the way (and I often do lose it somewhere along the way). But if I instead write it out quickly, in a not very coherent fashion, using plenty of clichés and a multitude of other literary sins, it already exists and all I need to do is slowly, carefully craft it into something that sounds good. Now that I’ve realised this one thing putting a book together seems more possible too.

Photo by Samuel Zeller.

A couple of things on a January morning

– London is frosty and sunny and this morning was the coldest we’ve had this year so far. The sky was pale blue and a chilly pink that reminds me of home. Last night when we drove home the sun set over the city and the top floors of the houses in Dalston were glowing orange. The Smiths played on the stereo and all those thoughts that had been buzzing around in my head stopped. I landed right in the moment, listening to Johnny Marr playing the guitar, thinking this is all so nice. Those things you thought were cool when you were fifteen stay with you.

– I’ve started a new job. I’m freelancing for Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet. It’s exciting. After about a year of not doing much journalism I’m back into the swing of things, booking interviews, reading papers, writing long lists of stories I’d like to do.

– I’m also trying to finish a project I’ve been working on since the autumn. At the moment I can’t say much more about it, but what I can say is that I’m slightly behind. I should be writing around 2000 words per day to stay on target. That is quite a lot. But I’ve been writing and writing during every spare minute I have and I’m finding that staying with a story this way is really quite good. All the characters are clear in my head, I know what I’m doing and where I’m going… most of the time at least.

– I’ve been writing a lot in Swedish lately.

– I keep coming up with strange new project ideas (for that one day when I have some down time) like writing short pieces based on London’s many ghost stories, that could also double up as a guide to the city. This does make sense in my head.

Image by Rebecca Johnston.

Hello Scotland, goodbye Scotland

We’re in Scotland, in Gerry’s granny’s house. Gerry’s sleeping next to me. We’re both exhausted. These last few days have passed in a manic flurry. I can’t believe it’s only a couple of days since we arrived here. We drove up from the south, stayed a night at Gerry’s granny’s place, travelled up to Inverness at five in the morning the next day, did interviews the whole day, travelled even further north and stayed in a haunted castle. The day after we headed back south, stayed with friends in Glasgow. And today we’re back here, tomorrow we go back south again.

It’s been a whirlwind tour with too little sleep and a lot of travelling. But then again that’s what a good freelance trip is all about. I like cramming as much as possible into a few days, living and breathing a story. I feel like I have a lot of good interviews and good background material. But I don’t want to jinx it by thinking I’ve done well, because I know everything comes together when I sit down to edit and write.

I like it up here. I’ve remembered why I like Scotland so much. The Highlands fill me with a sense of awe. It hits me in the gut every time I go up there. The colours are more vivid somehow. The sky is a clear blue that I’ve not seen anywhere else. There are bleak, snow-capped hills, dark forests and the light and cloudscape seems to change on an hourly basis. It’s like no where else and it’s gorgeous.

Next time I hope we can stay longer. Next time I want to allow things to sink in before we leave.

A post in which I pretty much just list what I’ve done recently

Gerry and I spotted these cuties on the way to work today

Yesterday I travelled to the sea, but didn’t see much of it. Instead I was soaked by drizzly rain, the battery on my phone ran out (as it seems to do if I as much as look at the instagram icon on the screen). For some strange reason I’d dressed for Finnish November and wasn’t prepared for a mild, grey afternoon at the seaside. I also got lost. But it was a pretty nice day.

I went to Folkestone to do a story about cultural regeneration and met some really nice people. Then I came home. Then I went to a music event in the evening.

This morning I slept in. Felt a bit bad about it. Then told myself I’d been working all of the weekend and needed a short brake. On Saturday I did all my taxes (the floor in the guest room is still a mess of paper). On Sunday I helped Gerry out at a market, did a radio story and then I did something else I’m sure, but I can’t remember anymore.

I think time is speeding up, rushing toward Christmas. It’s exciting and terrifying, kind of like before the big slope at the end of a roller-coaster (not that I’ve been on one since I was 10).

And also today the Kickstarter was funded! It’s been an emotional process. Not exactly stress-free. But we finally made it. If you ever need advice about a Kickstarter campaign, I will have plenty of stuff to tell you. It’s not as easy as it looks.