Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Other Inspirations - Debbie Bennett

Somebody asked on a facebook forum what else writers were doing with their lives besides writing (and day jobs for many of us). What fires us up away from the keyboard or notebook? What happens in the rest of our lives that inspires us?

I took a 2 year interior design course at the local college a while back. One evening (3 hours) per week with a lot of course work to be done in our own time. It wasn't cheap, but it gave me proper "student" status with a student card which came in handy for all the art materials I had to buy. From about two dozen starters, I think 5 of us finished the course and got a proper qualification.

I've made all my own soft furnishings ever since I've had my own house. Years later, we bought a Victorian cottage to renovate (thinking we weren't able to have kids - there's nothing like country air, a bit of DIY and a fairy ring for fertility...), so I took the course to find out how to do things properly. I learned a lot, made a fabulous book/project about the house and developed an eye for period detail, with the result that I'm now not afraid to experiment. Where once there was rose-pink anaglypta, there is now dark red with a huge red-and-gold Celtic throw (from English Heritage) hanging on the wall.  My study is in the modern 1970s extension, so here I've gone for turquoise, gold and brown stripes and rather colourful art nouveau roman blinds.

What else do I do? I used to make gemstone jewellery and I still make occasional pieces for myself and friends. But I can't compete with shops now - not when places like M&S can just buy in bulk from China - so I no longer sell anything, except occasionally at the village fair. My husband runs Moulton Glass, making stained glass products, and I often string up his glass mobiles with beads and other twiddly bits.

I've always wanted to learn dressmaking, but while I can alter clothes and make fancy-dress outfits from old sheets, the technique of following a pattern has always eluded me. It's the same in the kitchen - I can decorate a birthday cake or make a stew, but following a complex recipe is beyond me.

Can you see a pattern emerging here? I seem to be very good at making-it-up-as-you-go-along, but pretty useless at following instructions! Which is probably why I'm a writer, where making-it-up-as-you-go-along is generally the order of the day.

You can probably tell by that statement that I'm not a planner. I wish I was. Life would be so much easier if I knew where I was going, but where's the fun in that? I like to discover the plot along with my characters, get thrown into situations with them and then try to extricate myself with minimal damage. It doesn't always work and I've written myself into more corners than a Mueller yoghurt (I'm sure I've used that phrase before, on a blog post somewhere...) But joking aside - if I know what is going to happen, I can't summon up any enthusiasm to write it; somehow it loses its energy in the knowing. But I do envy writers who have synopses and outlines, chapter summaries and post-it notes. It must feel so much safer than venturing into the unknown completely unarmed.

So that's me. I was all science at school and university. But clearly the creative right-side of my brain is now struggling for dominance. I'm sure my family are better fed now - though they might not agree with me!


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3 comments:

Susan Price said...

Debbie, I am so impressed! You are not 'just' a bloody good writer, but a Renaissance Woman! More power to you!

Deb said...

Lovely throw and cake, Debbie!

julia jones said...

Agree with Susan - and am awed into silence. Would like to know more about the glass mobiles though - could you send a link? Are they baby-pleasers?