Kim Aikman: I gained some much-needed reflective time
My two-weeks at KSP truly was a retreat from all the distractions, interruptions, and general bustle of my normal life.
During my fellowship, I worked on a literary novel called In The Telling. It follows Skye, a 15-year-old, who has spent her childhood living in a commune in Australia, but who has now been abandoned by her mother, Kat, with two elderly female relatives (Effie and Lily) in their eccentric Edinburgh house. Over the course of the summer of 1997, Skye befriends a homeless girl, uncovers the stories that have shaped her family, and finally tells her own tale. This is a novel about the power of stories, especially those about and by women. It explores the multiplicity of experience, but also, the shadowing and echoing of our narratives: the patterns we create, and the meaning we build into our lives. I have been working on the manuscript with my mentor, Richard Rossiter, through the Fours Centres Emerging Writers Program and with Carrie Tiffany at the Faber Writing Academy.
It was so warm and cosy in my cabin with the rain coming down, the magpies singing, and the wintry skies to gaze upon from the large window above my desk. It took me a while to stop feeling rushed and for my days to settle into a rhythm, so I was very grateful to have a second week in which to continue writing my novel. I had quite forgotten that for me one of the most productive times of the day is in the late afternoon and early evening. As a mum of four, this is the busiest time of day for me, so I relished the chance to work during these hours. The space and time did, as I hoped it would, allow me to determine what is working and what needs more development, which can be difficult to do when you are limited to smaller, disjointed periods of time. My advice to other fellows is to have low expectations regarding output and to fully embrace the opportunity to think and daydream that their time at KSP allows. I feel a much greater connection to my novel now and a stronger sense of what I want to achieve and how to continue from this point. I gained some much-needed reflective time, plus the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the project, which I know will propel me on to complete the manuscript in the next few months.
Top Ten Tips
1. Have a plan but also be willing to deviate from it.
2. Write when you want to write. Don’t feel bad for taking a break.
3. See if there is a rhythm to your days regarding writing. Utilise these to be productive.
4. Read! It will help your writing. Also walking is writing! It’s a great way to solve problems.
5. Expect to feel a guilty at times. It will pass. You and your writing deserve this time.
6. Don’t get too hung up on word counts. Not all progress can be quantified.
7. Use this space to think and daydream, and to fully immerse yourself in your project.
8. Try to tackle scenes you’ve been avoiding. One way of doing this is to focus on the dialogue and then write the rest of the scene around the dialogue.
9. Use writing exercises to free yourself up and find a way into the manuscript.
10. Stretch, eat well, listen to music, and enjoy the view.
Kim Aikman, KSP Fellow - June 2023