Head’n Upstream – Recent Readings

I (like many folks of a creative bent) can get knocked off my perch with disheartening ease.  For me, this book was the most recent culprit.  It is well written, highly acclaimed and billed as “The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More”. So naturally I thought, “Hey, this sounds fabulous for me!”.

I researched this book.  I asked for this book for my Christmas, and I dually read this book whilst taking copious notes. And in return, this book paralysed me and brought my outward creative expressions to a screeching halt. (Bad book, Bad!)  There was of course, nothing wrong with book itself,  just my reaction to its sage words.  The nasty little chorus in my head (that sounds startling like the Wickersham Brothers in “Horton Hears a Who”) struck up their music and somehow convinced me that everything I had been doing in regards to writing about food had all been horribly, shamefully wrong.  Alas.

So, I waited for the chagrin to pass and tried to distract myself with a little light reading about the average Scottish woman’s life in the Tenement buildings of Edinburgh and Glasgow in the first half on the 20th century…good times.

I tend to read rather quite a lot of books like this as I am fascinated by the different aspects of life in my adopted home and their various histories.  The Scots are not terribly forthcoming with helping you understand the “why” in how things are the way they are, but then again – they are not terribly forthcoming with each other in general, so I don’t take it too personally.  Anyway, this is a brilliant book with wonderful insights into the everyday lives of an often silent (at least in historical records –  not in real life I am sure) majority of woman who lived, loved, and coped in unimaginable conditions and whose experiences influence much of what is modern Scotland today.

I can HIGHLY recommend this wonderfully researched book for ANYONE who for more than ONE SECOND is tempted to retreat into their inner core to host a little pity party for themselves about how life is treating them.  Strong tonic this!

However, my writing funk was still not shifting, school holidays were now upon us and all schedules went out the window.   Luckily, on the recommendation of my brother, I began this next ditty. This is the equally impressive corollary to this same author’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs & Steel.  I LOVE Diamond’s work as it soars through time, space & catastrophe with his unique blend of super smarty-pants observations and humour.  Who else can take you through the demise of Easter Island and Medieval Greenland, straight into the impending doom of our modern environmental actions and leave you begging for more? (Very important folks…do NOT cut down all your trees for grazing and/or farming – Top Tip.)

Well, with my brain properly humming with thoughts of over-salinisation of our eroded and depleted soils and the general precariousness of our existence, my next read came packing a surprising wallop. This is Douglas Adams’s (of the Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame) posthumous book.   It is not just a collection of articles and notes from his hard drive, but also the first chapters of the books he was working on at his untimely death in May of 2001 during a gym workout. ( Stay with me – things cheer up from here on…)

Well, anyone who knows Adams’s writing knows the sheer joy of his absurd ramblings. Yet even though he brought so much joy and humour to so many, in his life he constantly struggled with a (seemingly bizarre) lack of confidence.  So, although the title of the Salmon of Doubt began life as a possible sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s trilogy (yup that’s right), it is also a reference to his own creative journey and what hard it work it can be to keep those taps flowing.  This collection was compiled by his family and editors so that we could all savour just a bit more of his genius after his death.  As quoted in the Financial Times, “Douglas Adams threw away better ideas than most people have ever had…”.  Crikey, if it could be a challenge for him, what could I possibly be stressing about?

As my inner perspective regained a slightly more permissive and chilled stance, I encountered this next absolute gem of a book.  Now, I admit I was bracing for another worthwhile but very academic tome when I cracked the cover, but joy of joys this book was anything but a dry read!  It was written by a woman who was born in a fishing village in Fife in 1895 and whilst she lived with and amongst the fisher folk of the village, she and her family we always slightly “other” and therefore apart as her father was a fish buyer and caretaker of one of the churches in town.  Bottom line this was one of the richest, most interesting, enjoyable historical accounts I have ever read (and I have read a few) which very nearly never saw the light of day!

It was written by the author many decades after she moved away from Scotland, first to travel to Algeria as a Missionary and then to relocate in England (doon Sooth).  After her death her son passed it to her sister who insisted that she needed to take a black marker to most of it and promptly stored it in a bottom drawer.  For many more years that it where it sat until well after the sister’s death when the son came across it again.  Perhaps he had grown a bit, but not only did he overcome his embarrassment at his mother’s long remembered childhood in Scotland, he had the humility in the forward of the book to acknowledge, “I think I always underestimated my mother”.  He finally saw that this treasure was published – almost 100 years from when many of these observations occurred and over 50 years from when they were recorded as a book.

So, what do I take from this random collection of readings? Well, just that life is fleeting and precarious at best and that to waste any of that time panicking about the calibre of your creative output is a waste.  Everyone brings something different to the table and there is no one way or even right way to go about letting your free flag fly.  Hopefully, things improve with time and effort, but even great creatives have the same struggles no matter what their external trappings of success.  So lighten up, get cracking and enjoy sharing your thoughts, dreams & creations with each other because if not, the world will be less rich because of your hesitations.

Happy Weekend!


Comments (7)

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  1. Regina Hall says:

    Jean, I always love your posts. So happy you are writing again! xo

  2. Stefanie Zadravec says:

    Great post.
    Needed to read it.
    Jealous that you have the energy to read this much.

  3. Jessica says:

    Loved your post as usual. Keep ’em coming! xx Jess

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