Here we are, halfway through Immersion. Midway.
Midway is beautiful. It’s the deepest place.
When I wrote Storm and Grace, my sixth novel, I became obsessed with freediving, the practice of taking one breath and diving deep below the surface of the ocean. I had to be obsessed in order to write the book.
I love that about writing – that I can justify my obsessive curiosity and call it ‘I’m writing’.
(Early on, before I started writing Storm and Grace, when I was still trying to make an entirely different book behave itself, I had lunch with one of my sisters. I told her that I had become obsessed with freediving – watching videos, reading about it, looking at depth charts, practicing breath hold – and I casually said, ‘You know, when you just become obsessed with something?’
My lovely sister – a very practical nurse – looked blankly at me and said, “Umm. No.” So it turns out that not everyone gets led by their obsessions. But if you’re a writer, you almost certainly do.)
Anyway. If you were freediving, you’d be at the deepest part of your dive, the part where you begin a different journey, the journey of ascent.
Midway sometimes marks a struggle, a resistance.
Midway marks a change, it marks a taking stock, a recentering, a reordering.
It’s a useful moment to pause, to map where you are, to trace where you want to be.
Writers often speak of mapping the story out, or navigating plot points… we use the language of wayfinding in the making of stories and sentences, because wayfinding is what we are about. Sometimes we are about mapping the possible journey, the way forward, the way out. Sometimes, we are simply marking where were are.
Make a map today.
Draw a map – however literal or realist you like – of a location in your life, or in your story. For instance, Fury is a memoir set largely on the Ocean Thief, a fishing trawler I spent a disastrous season aboard when I was a desperate young woman. Midway through the writing of Fury I realised that I did not have a real sense, a concrete memory, of the spaces on the Ocean Thief, and so I needed to pause and physically map them. I have a famously bad sense of direction (I once got lost on a canal in Wales…) and drawing is very much the weakest card in my creative hand… so the map I drew bore no resemblance to an actual map. The wheelhouse was tiny and seemed to grow out of the galley, like a chimney. The cabin I huddled in during storms (there were many storms) is shown as a squiggly line. And the different decks lack any sense of height. But the mapping became a meditation on how the space of the Ocean Thief had unmade and reassembled me. I don’t do this with every book, though I did map the backyard prison in my first novel, The Breaking. I mapped the island in Storm and Grace, and I mapped the rocky outcrops of the Abrolhos Islands when I wrote The Accomplice.
I’m not suggesting that you draw a map of every location that you might want to write about – rather that you choose one location. Draw it as an Ordnance Survey map if you want, or as a series of squares and arrows. Or it might resemble an architectural drawing with the location of windows and chairs marked in dotted lines…. Take your time, however you map this space. And then, when you are done, annotate. Draw arrows and mark what these spaces mean:
Here is the kitchen table where she discovers the letter…
This is the landing where Mrs de Winter looks at the painting…
This is the ladder they swing from when the moon is down…
Take your time. Let the mapping be an unfolding, guiding you into the place or your memory or your imagination.
Today’s prompt is…
The sound of the highway