This is the second last dispatch from Judy Johnson at the Tyrone Guthrie Residence in Ireland:
Well, spring has arrived here in Annaghmakerrig, just when I’m about to leave! The snowdrops and buttercups are up and there is a warmth in the sun that just hasn’t been here before. It’s made me think about freshening up my approach to writing.
One of the wonderful things about the mix of writers, artists, composers and musicians here is that you get to hear how other creative people of all persuasions work. It seems to me that painters and writers have the most in common. FIrst comes an idea in a painter’s head, perhaps aided by a photograph or a piece of music or an emotion that they want to express. Then is the selection of materials, texture, colour and form that will suit that vision. After the actual brush on paper work begins, it’s not all smooth sailing, just as it hardly ever is for writing. There is the application of paint, then the scraping off of paint; getting the balance just right so that the canvas starts to speak of that original vision.
Writers are luckier than artists though in one respect. If they keep their early drafts then nothing vital is lost in re-writing. But with
painters, if they paint over a layer that really held the essence of what they were trying to say, then it’s difficult or impossible to go back.
As well as writing I’ve been doing a lot of reading. There are interesting books in all of the rooms here. Currently my work of inspiration is ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel. I have just started it (only a couple of years after its publication!), but already I’m pulled into the story, the characters have come alive and I know it will be a memorable journey. Books are such generous companions. Perhaps the most generous, because they don’t mind being put down and neglected for a time. A good book is not only transporting, but comforting, stimulating, inspiring and a way of knowing the world with fresh new eyes.
Armchair travel into other lives. What’s not to love!
Per head of population, Ireland is overly represented with well known writers: James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Edna O’Brien. Speaking to women writers here, it seems that they have found it difficult historically to break through the male dominated literary world , but as always happens, the best writing comes out of struggle and there are some fantastic women poets and novelists here in Ireland. The writer’s museum in Dublin is a grand old Georgian building which celebrates the history of Irish writing, male and female. The stained glass windows on the stairs are particularly beautiful.
I’m not sure what it is that makes Ireland so conducive to creativity. I suspect it has something to do with the struggles of its people over the
years and something to do with the landscape ( and, of course, the two things are inextricable in many ways as Ireland’s battles have been largely over the possession of the land). The landscape has a kind of melancholy that is hard to describe but is partly the weight of history
and partially a spirit of place that exists despite the comings and goings of humans. And it is extremely beautiful, which is always inspirational, even in Winter when the austere branches of the trees entreat the slate-grey sky, and black birds to skip from branch to branch.