I recently changed job and, as I’ve been settling into new routines and getting to know new colleagues, I’ve had less time for writing. I haven’t stopped walking – though my routes have also changed. During the week, I’ve walked by the Thames and wandered around Southwark, Lambeth and Camden. At the weekend, I find myself walking, as I have for years, beside Sheffield’s rivers – the Don, the Loxley, the Rivelin. Walking remains a constant amidst all the change.
I’ve always struggled with writing, however. I express myself better through my photographs, which together, and obliquely, have created something like a notebook of my experiences, feelings, reflections. At present, as I try to write more regularly again, I’m confronting what the French refer to as ‘blank page syndrome’ – writer’s block. Picking up this blog again is way to recreate a writing routine and rebuild some confidence.
In 2020, working with Emily-Rose Baker, I published an edited volume – Invisible Wounds: Negotiating Post-Traumatic Landscapes to accompany an exhibition I co-curated with Museums Sheffield – Invisible Wounds: Landscape and Memory in Photography. Since then, my writing has stalled. Maybe it’s the pandemic, the change of job, the commute. Experts tell me it’s more likely to be my tendency to edit as I write, this sense I always have that the first draft needs to be perfect, my lack of self-confidence. Perhaps it’s just that I have gotten out of the habit. Whatever the reason, all the ideas that course freely through my mind while I walk simply freeze in my fingers as soon as I pull out my laptop.
So, a return to occursus and to this blog. I’ve blocked out regular slots in my diary to read and to write. I’m planning my new writing project and allowing myself to write in chunks, rather than overwhelming myself with vertiginous views of the whole. I’ll be writing about my walks and the peripheral urban landscapes that have been my passion and my consolation since growing up as a child in east Hull. I’ll also be thinking and writing about affect theory, the twin canons of contemporary nature and ‘edgelands’ writing, and the work of artists and photographers whose interests similarly lie in place. Some of the pieces I publish here will be reflections on my reading and research; others may be extracts from the writing project itself.
Thank you for walking with me into this blank page.