18th June 2020 by

What do you call a writer who isn’t writing?

Bridget Blankley, Art History MA student tells us what life in lockdown is like for a writer

What do you call a writer who isn’t writing?

In my case it’s a research student. After staring at a blank page for too many months I told my publisher that I was taking a break and signed up for an MA in art history. (But perhaps it would help if you didn’t mention this to my supervisor. It’s best if she thinks I’m motivated by a love of conceptual art rather than my inability to progress with my day job.)

The plan seemed to be working, I was enjoying being a student again, and I was writing again – then we were hit by Covid-19. Like so many people, my ability to concentrate seemed to be inversely proportional to the amount of time I spent indoors. Before long I’d got out of the habit of writing every day. My supervisor understood, unfortunately my publisher didn’t. I had to remind myself what made me start writing in the first place. My last book, The Ghosts and Jamal, was about a teenage boy who made a 600Km journey through Nigeria (with a little help) in search of somewhere to call home.

I didn’t mean to set it in Nigeria, I wrote it after I saw a kid in a refugee camp on the news – that’s the problem with writing, the book takes on a life of its own. I used to get annoyed when I heard authors saying that they didn’t know what their characters would do next, but it’s true. Well, it’s almost true, I knew the how the book would end from the moment I wrote the first sentence. What I didn’t realise was that, without meaning to, I had set the story in Nigeria, where I grew up. That’s another thing about authors, we write what we know, we change names and move locations, but if you look closely enough, you find that we’ve hidden part of ourselves in our books.

You can buy the Ghosts and Jamal directly from the publisher HopeRoad, or order it from your local independent bookshop. And look out for my next, post-Covid novel, which will be set in the murky world of animal trafficking.


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