I’ve just completed a three day intellectual marathon, attending the Norwich Literary Festival. Belinda and I also attended some of the concerts, at St Andrew’s Hall and the Cathedral, but the literary events, in Chapelfield Gardens and a week earlier, at City Hall, I attended on my own.
The goal was to immerse myself completely, in the world where I plan to spend the rest of my life. Project work will now only be undertaken if I think it will inform my writing. It’s time now to find my voice, and use it to challenge perceptions and provoke positive change.
Early on, to my surprise, I discovered that I still harbour prejudices myself. Assumptions I had made about disability were shattered by the eloquence of experts, who blended academic rigour with lived experience. I gained a perspective into how early Quakers left Britain to shape America. I realised how close my home town of Leiston had been to becoming Britain’s Chernobyl and I saw how privilege had given some writers a head start in their quest to see a fairer society.
But perhaps two experiences stand out for me. The first was the evident sacrifice most had made to research and write their books. I now know that to create great work, I too have to sacrifice the comfort of familiar work, and enter a while the lives of those I plan to write about.
The second was listening to poet Owen Lowery reading some of his work. Tetraplegic as the result of a sporting accident, his delivery was punctuated by the rhythmic cycle of his ventilator. He clearly approached the horror of his condition with pragmatism and humour. It made me realise that none of us knows how long we can continue as we are. There really is no time to waste. It is time for me to put writing first. Watch this space!