My Brain and I…

My Brain and I have been together for nearly 70 years achieving some remarkable things and the occasional dismal failure.

Measure once – cut once – buy another worktop, for example! These days I do find it harder to deal with irrelevant data, all I need is the bottom line. If I want more data, I will ask for it or Google it. I can be forgetful and find it hard to recall things but that is normal and does not mean that I am losing my marbles.

I know that my brain has filed huge amounts of data unconsciously and it just takes a bit longer tracking it down. It is all in there somewhere! However, it is difficult to find what you do not know the brain has stored for a rainy day. Suddenly, something pops into my consciousness and I wonder, “Where did that come from? What triggered that thought? And why?”

I have observed Alzheimer’s and dementia at close hand and fear the onset of these debilitating conditions in my old age.

I have observed Alzheimer’s and dementia at close hand and fear the onset of these debilitating conditions in my old age. To offset them I keep three Times General Knowledge crossword books dotted around the house to dip into as and when. It is a comfort to find that my brain function improves with practice but I also find them rather soporific.

Over many years, I have written books on countryside law and conservation. Getting every comma and full stop correct in a legal text is pretty tedious and tiresome stuff. One book was highly acclaimed, but took two of us four years to complete!

I then wrote a small book of Shaggy Dog Stories that was purely fictional and imaginative and great fun to do. I relished the freedom to write without constriction. I also typeset it and arranged illustration, printing and publication. The title and some of the tales hark back to stories told by my father and I enjoyed embellishing them with detail based upon characters I developed from friends and family. I truly enjoy visualising a location or a character and describing them with a picture in words.

In 2004, my wife and I travelled to Mallaig on a railway weekend break including a trip on the Jacobite, now Hogwarts Express.  It was a wet and misty ‘dreich’ day and we stopped at Corrour Station [403m] a remote isolated location on the northern edge of the mountainous, bog-ridden, Rannoch Moor, ten miles from the nearest track. It was a rainy, mist-blown day and a lone walker left the train disappearing into the mist. I wondered what might happen if he, or she, was lost or injured. My imagination would not let go of this spark and for several weeks daydreamed a story, a fantasy. Realising that I had created the end of a novel, I was left without a start and a middle so all was shelved somewhere in the back of the brain.

By 2018, it must have gathered a lot of dust, but planning a holiday on the North Coast 500 must have blown the cobwebs off. Somewhere deep in my unconscious or imagination, a seed sprouted the storyline based on four young women meeting at Portsmouth University. Again, the source of that seed was unknown. I never went to ‘Uni’ and my only connection with Portsmouth was a visit to Nelson’s Victory. Neither is the book biographical, but as my imagination converted to the text I found many life experiences, people, sights, sounds, sayings and places unfolding on the screen before me. 

The storyline took over all my waking thoughts and I would jot down notes, wherever I was, and rush home to type them up or send myself an email. Never let an idea get away as you may not find it again. As I developed the heroine’s quest for Mr Right yet another sprout linked her experiences to those of Jane Austen’s heroines, and so the text is dotted with quotations about love, marriage and romance. I realised I had created a piece of Jane Austen Fan Fiction [JAFF], something I was wholly unaware of, but the book has featured at a JAFF festival in New York.

Imagination gives you the freedom to create your own characters and personalities. They are the actors in your theatre bringing your words, actions and locations to life and entertaining an audience. In your imagination, you can do anything thought to be impossible. It can take you wherever you want in the world at any time in history, or the future, even to places that do not exist. My book reaches Papua New Guinea and Ponza, Italy.

The story is a romantic mystery novel based on a magical Scottish glen, The Hidden Glen, divorced from our time and reality. Emma, the heroine, could be any young woman leaving Uni for a job in the city but the outcome is far removed from mundane city life and her destiny is far from ordinary. The theme is about her relationships with her parents, her Uni friends and men. Yes, it does delve into you know what, but only about half a shade of grey! I used many copyright-free images from Geograph to bring realism to Emma’s travels and there was a further pleasure in contacting the people who posted those photos.

In May 2018, we toured the west coast, down to Skye and across the sea to Mallaig, passing Knoydart featured in the story. In July, I ruptured a disc and was confined to a chair with a prescription for hallucinogenic painkillers. Perhaps that is where the ideas came from but I did finish the book. I found the mental process invigorating and exciting and realised that the old brain was not dead or dying!

I published on Kindle books via Amazon using Kindle Create. I can offer tips on this fairly simple and free process. Complete your manuscript, use Kindle Create to upload it, design a cover and within 24 hours it is ready for sale worldwide.

The story ends where the heroine returns to the glen to find her lost love. I was asked, “What happened next?” This summer, imprisoned by Covid, I wrote eight more chapters to create an extended version. Once again, I found one idea developed further ideas and the story just rolled on to the screen.

Using Kindle Create is useful because you can upload amendments and re-publish in hours. Those changes will also download free of charge to update existing copies. You can also create a paperback version from the same manuscript. Then you will need a website, a blog perhaps, another creative experience and a Facebook page. No time to go to the Shed.

Using one’s imagination and creativity has been a hugely enjoyable, fun and rewarding experience leaving the brain energised as if it was on fire.  Creative writing is a great exercise for the brain – all you need is a spark. As Jane Austen said, “Indulge your imagination in every possible flight.” [Pride and Prejudice.] You do not need to publish just try short stories. No need for them to be fiction either, just write about what you know or have done.

Rudyard Kipling, the author, not the cake-maker said, “I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.” Choose a person, a location or situation and apply the 5Ws and you are up are running. The data is all in that brain of yours somewhere.

The Hidden Glen has its own website, https://thehiddenglen.webs.com/ and is on Facebook.

It is written in the Nom de Plume ‘Carla Parkes.’ Well, would you buy a romantic mystery novel from a crusty, curmudgeonly 70-year-old male Shedder?