Dreaming Of Another World is a new feature on my blog, inspired by a piece I wrote a few weeks back. I wondered if other creatives felt the same as me, that another world could be glimpsed during lockdown and that perhaps we ought to use this unique time to change our ways. I reached out to other writers and bloggers to ask how lockdown affected their vision of the future. Has the experience changed them and if so, how? Are they going to make changes to their lives because of what has happened? This next post is from author LE Hill, a former journalist who used the lockdown isolation to finish and publish her first novel. She also runs a writing based Community Interest Company, like me! Enjoy the post and if you would like to know more about LE Hill and her novel The Girl I Left Behind, the link is at the end.
By L E Hill
Five months ago, I was sitting in the café at John Lewis in Glasgow drinking coffee and catching up with one of my close friends who I see only once or twice a year. It was almost deserted and as we chatted we realised it may be the last time we caught up for a while.
Earlier that morning, when I arrived on the early train to Glasgow, I met my brother briefly and we hugged albeit wondering if we should. I’m so glad we did – who would have thought hugging or showing affection would become so taboo. We talked about our kids and the prospect of the schools closing at Easter. Little did we know what lay ahead.
Later, I met another dear friend who by coincidence was also in town. She had flown up from London for the weekend to visit her mum and had packed a bag as her employers had advised her to work from home for the next few weeks. She ended up being back for almost four months.
I stayed with my parents that night and as I said goodbye the next day before getting the train, I wondered when I would see them again – especially as my dad has ongoing health conditions. We were all waiting the imminent announcement that we were going into lockdown.
That morning I willed the train to go faster to take me home to my own family. As I looked out of the window and watched fields flash by, I could feel the creep of anxiety begin. I felt as though I was on borrowed time and wanted to get into what would soon become my bubble.
My biggest concern was how it would affect my children – particularly the abrupt end to their academic year; cancelled exams; cancelled activities; having their freedom curtailed and having to think about things that didn’t event enter my head when I was their age. Yet I watched in amazement and with pride as they and their friends adjusted and adapted and showed great resilience despite everything in their world being turned upside down.
For the first couple of months of the pandemic I didn’t have much time to dream. My mind was hectic – too busy making sure my kids were okay, worrying about my parents and trying to juggle work. All of my freelance community work dried up overnight – as meeting places shut down and everyone stayed at home. Perhaps that lull did in some way fuel my thoughts and trigger something which had been at the back of my mind for a while. I did indeed start to dream.
I have always wanted to write books. I have written – since I was a child –. yet up until lockdown I hadn’t written very much at all for about a year. I had completely lost all confidence in my ability to write. I just didn’t feel good enough.
I know the joy that creative writing can bring – I teach it to community groups in a bid to help people share their stories and build confidence. I work with older people, those living with dementia and their carers and survivors of domestic abuse. I love watching people smile as they discover the joy of writing, sharing their story and realising that they can do it. Yet I could not.
Over the years I have written four books. Two will probably stay in a drawer forever, but over the past couple of years I have been tirelessly trying to get two novels published. I naively thought that if I signed to an agent and publishers showed interest then I was on the home straight. Not so. Despite strong interest and requested and detailed rewrites for two, the interest then faded away. I soon learned all about the term ‘being ghosted’. I lost my confidence, forgot about how much I used to enjoy writing and decided that my dreams of having my work published were pointless.
But during lockdown I thought a lot about the fragility of life. I read the devastating stories of loss and anguish and how much Covid-19 had affected so many people. I also regularly reminded myself how lucky I was that my family were well and safe.
So – I gave myself a shake. I’m not getting any younger and who knows what is around the corner. I finally accepted that I didn’t need anyone else’s approval to get my book out there. Just my own.
A friend designed the cover, I planned a launch date and on July 11 published my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind.
It’s not perfect, I have loads to learn but isn’t that what life is about? I have no expectations either. I just want to write. And I have been. I have started to enjoy journaling, writing Haikus and have managed to rewrite another book which I had put away in a drawer.
I bumped into someone locally who had bought The Girl I Left Behind and she told me that my book had got her back into reading again; a friend from university – that I hadn’t spoken to for years – contacted me to tell me how much she enjoyed it.
Even my dad, who never reads anything other than the sports results, has been reading it. For me, that is what it is all about.
I keep reminding myself that I am where I am supposed to be today and things generally work out for a reason. My years of dreaming about having my work in print have finally come true.
LE Hill has always loved reading and writing and her short stories and poetry have been published in various anthologies. She has been shortlisted in national writing competitions and been a writer in residence with Women’s Aid East and Midlothian. A former journalist, she spent much of her working life in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. She has also worked in marketing and communications and has an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University and a PhD from Stirling University.
She is particularly interested in creative writing for health and well-being and runs a small social enterprise in East Lothian, Sharing A Story CIC, using shared reading and creative writing sessions to reduce social isolation and build confidence.
The Girl I Left Behind, available here: https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B08C
Thank you so much to LE Hill for writing this piece for my blog! I still have spaces to fill for this feature so please get in touch if you have a story, poem or non-fiction piece on the theme of dreaming of another world…