The Quixotic Nature of Inspiration by Ruth Leigh
As writers, we’re all different, and thank heavens for that. Some of us are planners, with notebooks full of plot development, story arcs and carefully researched facts, distilling each precious drop into our literary efforts. Others (and I include myself in this category, at least most of the time) are pantsers, seizing at random facts (Colchester’s Dutch Quarter is so-called because the inhabitants called anyone foreign “Dutch”, even Flemish refugees fleeing Catholic persecution).
So, let’s start with the Dutch Quarter, or at least what it represents. I’m fortunate enough to be paid for using both sides of my writer’s brain, factual and creative, spending much of my week writing for freelance clients, and the rest of it marketing my first novel and writing my second.
One of my clients is an exclusive estate agent, covering East Anglia and a little further beyond. They came up with the rather splendid wheeze of hiring a team of freelance writers (me included) to interview their clients and write up lifestyle pieces on their properties. Honestly, it is the most fun. One day I’ll be struggling to find something interesting to say about a new build (rambling on about the surrounding countryside is often a good way to go), another delving into the fascinating, chequered history of a Grade II listed Georgian townhouse.
I’m an Essex girl, and I’ve been to Colchester a few times. I never knew it had a Dutch Quarter, nor that Flemish Protestant refugees set up home there in the sixteenth century. Writing up that property was loads of fun and in my mind, I could hear the rustle of silk dresses, the clip clop of horses’ hooves on cobblestones and the shouts of market traders. Who knows where those thoughts will end up?
When I found that I needed a name for an annoying, posh property blogger, naturally, I called her Bressumer Beams (real name, Portia Waldegrave). I found myself able to write believable descriptions of interiors thanks to my new knowledge. I don’t live in a large, posh house, but I certainly spend a lot of time looking at properties which are simply awash with period features and delightfully expensive fixtures and fittings. What a joy that is for a writer.
So far, no-one has asked me The Big Question. “Where do you get your ideas from?” But when they do, I’ll give my standard answer, “Life is copy” (because it is), adding that you just never know when inspiration will strike and from what quarter. Dutch or otherwise.
Images from Pixabay
Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer. She is married with three children, one husband, three budgies, six quail, eight chickens and a kitten. Her first novel, “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, came out in February this year and she is writing the sequel, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge.” She writes for a number of small businesses and charities and blogs at ruthleighwrites.co.uk. She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at ruthleighwrites.