Beatrix Potter was a big feature of my childhood, from the little books, an LP album of stories read by Wendy Craig, and numerous holidays to the Lake District. Miss Potter, and later Mrs Heelis, was a force to be reckoned with in regard to the conservation of one of our most beautiful landscapes, as well as a gifted artist, story-teller and botanist.
The Pie and the Patty Pan has to be my favourite Beatrix story – thanks to the restrained bitchiness of Duchess and Ribby, the confusion over the pie made of mouse, and the shameless greed of Doctor Maggoty.
In the enchanting opening sequence of the film Miss Potter in which the title role is played by Renee Zellweger, Beatrix describes the magic of beginning a story, and never knowing where it will take you. Similarly when we write in our journals we rarely know where we’ll go, and this in particular is what happened to me last week.
I began with the kick-off phrase “I want to write about…” and the word that immediately sprang to the end of my pen was creativity. What followed was an incredible extended, and rather conceited, metaphor about not wanting to reinvent wheels, but make sure the right wheel is available for the vehicle. From there I went to realising that the vehicle I’m driving doesn’t have any wheels at all. Instead my vehicle floats and relies on the wind for propulsion. Of course I ‘m stuck if there is no wind, so I need to devise a way for my vehicle to be self-propelling when necessary.
And so it meandered on, a surreal meditation on what my vehicle really is. In the end I determined that I’m navigating upon a sleek, living craft – which somehow in the midst of all this metamorphosed into a giant whale.
Oookayy. There wasn’t any waccy baccy at hand honest. Just a willingness to allow myself to follow creativity wherever it might lead. I spent an amazing hour expanding possibilities, planting new seeds in my mind, and the following day I outlined ideas for three new book titles, plus a novel.
So Miss Potter was right, writing takes us where we least expect. And gives us a whale of a time.