‘Will I want to keep reading?’ my husband asks me.

We’re having breakfast, munching Zopf (a typical Swiss bread eaten on slow Sunday mornings) and drinking tea. Our daughter is spreading a thick layer of jam on hers and the cat is chasing flies on the wide windowsill.

I’d stayed up late the night before to work on a scene that I’d planned to have near the middle of my novel, and which, while I couldn’t let it go, had always troubled me.

That’s the trouble with writing. Once the words are down on paper (metaphorically speaking, of course), it’s hard to unimagine them. I like this scene, but no amount of tweaking seems to make it better or a better fit.

‘What’s it about?’ he asks next, and I find myself struggling to explain, succinctly, what the scene contains and why it’s there.

‘The book I’m reading at the moment is well written but very annoying,’ he says, ‘because it’s so disjointed and full of unnecessary information. It jumps all over the place.’

‘Like that other book you read, Daddy,’ our daughter chimes in, ‘you didn’t like that either.’

Everyone’s a critic.

‘And don’t put social commentary ahead of a good story,’ he says, his final piece of advice as he reaches for another slice of Zopf.

And, of course, he’s right (just this once), because what’s the point if no one wants to keep reading? The danger is that while I wrestle with each word and struggle to include all the sentiment (and social commentary) I think should be there I’ll lose sight of what my story is really about, which, at its heart, is the impact a tragic death has on those living in a small, isolated and very troubled community. Too much commentary and I risk weakening the impact of what is at its essence.

‘He begins to sob and the sound trickles out from between cracked lips and tears drip down his cheeks at the thought of what he has done and what he has not done. Love has found him and will not now let him go.’




I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to focus on writing my novel.

For the moment my dissertation is lying dormant. But in the manner of the best bread dough left to ferment by itself in a warm place my dissertation still has a life of its own, even when my attention is seemingly elsewhere.

Each time I sit down to do some creative writing I end up with new ideas, thoughts, links, words even, for my dissertation.

When I first started this Phd I wondered how I could possibly write creatively and academically at the same time. How could I divide my attention between these two seemingly disparate projects? What if I found it impossible to switch languages, to switch styles? What if my brain couldn’t cope with thinking creatively and theoretically at the same time and gave up in protest?

It’s still early days, but it seems that not only is there quite a bit of overlap (not all that surprising when you consider my dissertation is looking at themes/questions in my novel) but they also actively feed into each other, so that I have trouble keeping up with all the ideas being generated. It’s actually very exciting, and makes me feel very ¬†glad I took the step (leap!) to do this in the first place.

Now all I need is more hours in the day to put all these ideas into practice.

It’s a bit like having the bread dough all ready but no time to bake it…