I deserted my beach café this week, having a highly-important appointment at the hair salon to attend. It didn’t reduce my productivity, however, as I dashed off a thousand-word contribution for my new book while I was there. It didn’t prevent me from writing on the beach, either, since the salon is located in an old stone cottage on Portland – built into the back of the Chesil at its eastern end. In this area, called Chiswell (not Chesil!), the houses nestle among fishermen’s stores, beached fishing boats and piles of lobster pots. It has an air of timelessness about it, even from the modern interior of the salon. Charles Dickens would have loved it here, and I do, too. I used to live close by, and in the early days would lie awake listening, as I thought, to the sounds of traffic swooping down the hill. It was a while before I realised it was the sounds of the waves washing onto the shingle of Chesil Cove I could hear. That was a key moment, indeed.
And I was working on a key scene for my book as I waited, draped in towels. Pretty good multi-tasking, don’t you think? Not a moment wasted. Soon I became engrossed, the chatter of the salon faded, and I was transported to a riverbank far away. I think for a little while I was truly there.
Let’s be clear – the chapters of a book are not always written in the same order you read them. Probably they are mostly written ‘out of order’. It’s helpful, sometimes, to settle a climactic scene fairly early in the writing process. It can clarify what needs to happen early in the story, so in a sense you begin at the end and fill in the vital precursors afterwards – with hindsight, you might say. It is, at least, nice to know where the tale is heading. It works for me, anyway; and as for writing in the hair salon, I enjoy the relaxing music and I’m provided with as much coffee as I can drink. One thousand words committed to paper and coiffed and manicured, too. Work and leisure happily combined. True multi-tasking, too, I think.