A Writer's Process: Penny Asquith Evans

I can’t say, hand on heart, that writing is always a complete joy for me.

I persevere through very dark days with Morning Pages, practically screaming with frustration at how long it can take to write three meagre, miserable pages of meaningless drivel.

But then there are those blissful days of flow. When your writing transports you to another time and place. Your hand can’t keep up with the outpouring of words, turning, twisting and tumbling over one another to be heard, diving onto the page with the force of a waterfall crashing into the valley below.

It isn’t necessarily easy to work out how to get into that state of flow, although, for me, it helps to have a definite end-point in mind.

Most recently, this was an article about ‘being brave’ for a travel writing competition.

The particular time and place was easy to choose, and I knew how to relate my story to the brief. All I had to do after that was write the thousand words! I dabbled for days on end, making notes, writing, re-writing, and abandoning an opening sentence artlessly designed to grab the reader’s attention. I went for long, solitary walks, muttering endlessly to myself as I tried to coax the article into being.

With only two days left until the submission deadline and nothing to show for my efforts, in desperation I took myself off into the countryside, and set up a makeshift writing desk on my favourite picnic table, next to a fast-flowing stream in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales.

I closed my eyes, and listened to the sound of the water rippling over stones, catching the occasional ‘plink’ of a fish leaping out of the water in pursuit of a fly. Soothed by the sound of the wind rustling in the trees, and the feel of the breeze catching an errant strand of hair, it became easy to take myself back to my big, brave adventure. Suddenly, I was back in Yosemite, climbing up the steep, rocky path to Vernal Falls, bathing in a rainbow of spray.

Words gushed out in a torrent; sights, sounds, smells all as fresh in my mind as the day I had been there, and as my mind wandered through the memories, the emotions came back with vivid clarity as well.

The article pretty much wrote itself after that, and though it didn’t win any prizes, for me, it was probably the most authentic piece of writing I had ever done, and I was immensely proud of that.