Some thoughts on a new kind of literary world
by Megan Delahunt
Endnote: Meaghan Delahunt is working with fellow author Kirsty Gunn on an at- home writing programme – WordPath Scotland– an international as well as local creative writing course that brings together ideas gathered from the hills of East Sutherland and the Pentlands, that is Scottish in feel but global in reach. Contact: www.wordpathscotland.com
The past 18 months have altered our relationship with the natural world, with time, and with ourselves. It’s sent us in two directions – outside into parks and gardens and any glimpse of green and even further online into the digital world. These two directions have had personal and collective consequences – a greater understanding of our place in nature and our impact upon it – and a greater understanding of what we want to do with our creative lives, how we want to spend our allotted time on earth– to understand that we’re more than just our paid work. That we are also what we make.
With people on endless furlough, losing or changing jobs, many have turned to online courses and tapped into their creativity in surprising ways. People have tried painting, knitting, languages and song. In the North, especially, one can often feel the distance between where we are and where we want to be – and wherever we are, online spaces have filled in the miles between us. Writers and writing teachers have had to adapt to this challenging new reality.
The past 18 months I’ve had to learn fast. From the Australian launch of my novel The Night-Side of the Country on Zoom last year, to a script collaboration on the same novel with a fellow-writer in New York; from short videos on writing for St Columba’s hospice to creating an online at-home writing programme with a writer-friend up north ... bringing together the wynds and closes of Edinburgh with the wide open spaces of Sutherland to create publicity and writing materials...like most people during this time, I’ve had to learn new skills.
It’s been fun, though, roaming the country and thinking about writing projects and literary worlds...while staying at my desk. It means I’ve been able to access not only the “idea” of a wider Scotland and the world around me – but the actual reality of that, as time and distance telescope in a new way. Until recently, workshops, literary events and collaboration would have involved travel – to Inverness, Beauly, Dundee, for example – and much further afield. That’s no longer the case.
So, the North seems to be a view out of my window now, along with the rooftops of Leith where I live. Writing is often about bringing disparate worlds and ideas together, making connections that wouldn’t always be apparent. New ways of working and learning are part of this.
It will soon be autumn, a time which always prompts reflection. The beauty and melancholy – the fallings and shiftings – as one season surrenders to another. It’s an ideal time to write, to be inside, to turn inwards to the imagination. This autumn, I think, more and more people will also want to explore their creativity in a different way; to realise that they are more than what they do for a living. They may turn to an online course – poetry, art, music – who knows? – to discover a new kind of path from the comfort of home... and as a writer and teacher of writing this takes me out of my study and into a beautiful new landscape.↑