Yesterday was the four year anniversary of this blog. I started this blog to make sense of an impossible world. Four years ago, in 2010, I was living in NYC with D, in a bedbug-ridden flat in Queens, having just emigrated from Scotland right after having been awarded a PhD in English Literature (CW) from Glasgow University and getting married. I was working as a dog walker and figuring out how to start novel number two. It was a chaotic time full of challenges – one great violent culture class in a city which can strip you down a few layers of skin, rasp metallic at you, make you invisible, in ways I had never experienced before. I started taking pictures to see the beauty of things, because New York is, in common with London, with any grand city, like a Medusa: bearable only in mirrors, only in fragments of image and writing. I went out by greyhound bus with D to New Mexico for two weeks to find something diametric to city life, and did, and shored that for later.
We left towards the end of 2011. Back to Scotland with that novel still brewing, but with an agent for the first. I finished the second novel in Edinburgh, surrounded by cold damp stone in the Old Town, using a New Mexican landscape and the glitter of the dirty capital of capitalism to feed the novel from a distance. At the same time using photos to see my new old home, a place that felt painful and sad and uplifting and hopeful to return to, as a failed immigrant. I wrote Love Letters – the sequence of which you can read here – when I felt something harsher than love, that needed words to articulate. I started reviewing books. I got a teaching job that allowed me time to write, and which I could walk to across bridges and down streets that were calm – no more entertaining, bruising, traumatic subway rides under the East River or up from the Lower East Side. I wrote slowly, diligently. I had to let my agent go, which felt like a loss, but I have also connected to some lovely people online – writers, readers, artists, raconteurs. I did an online residency at Necessary Fiction. I felt like I was drawing lines outwards, even if I did not know where those lines were going.
And at the end of last year I was awarded a residency in Banff – more pictures, and a great deal of intensity of thought and experience, packed into five weeks in the blind-striking mountains. I worked on my third book, and I’m working on it now, trudging through the snow that the mountains dropped on it. A whiteness that has dazzled me, but when that lifts, will be like the aftermath of New York was for me. Or else I will require more time, more space for the words to form. Right now, where does this anniversary find me? Still in the process of writing through. Still trying to make sense of what I am doing, where I am on this unmappable territory. Even if the bearings I get are only slight, I am glad to be here, writing a nudge of the needle, writing a step forward in the dark, wherever it leads.
I am four years older, and all that time has been filled in so many ways, by rush, by silence, by the light of the computer screen, by doubt, by magnitude. I ask, where will I be four years from now, only asking because of a demand for symmetry. Knowing the question is an echo for a well not yet finished. I peer down into not even the darkness. Time keeps coming and here I keep it the best way I can. And I think my blog is worth writing, worth the grounding, thinking of people reading here, and the railing it gives me.