I’ve planned the year in dots. I love my colour coded wall planner:
Yellow is author events. Green is workshops for Historic Environment Scotland. Red is deadlines. Orange is conferences and meetings. The more red, yellow and green I have, the more I need blue dots. Blue dots are rest.
Rest to me looks like:
- Walking in the hills
- Cooking and baking
- Time with close friends
- Slow mornings
- Cleaning the house
- Playing football
- Watching Poldark with a Gin and Tonic
- Writing that I’m not being paid to do (writing for fun!)
(a blue dot day ipad sketch of a stag)
It’s basically doing things that allow me to recharge. The last couple of months have a pretty intense yellow, green and red –go-go-go time. And I’ve not always got the balance right but being aware I need more blue on the wall planner helps. I don’t work properly without blue dots. I don’t think any of us do. The blue dots make everything else possible.
You might call a blue dot Sabbath – a concept that came as a law to 2 million people who were liberated from slavery. The problem was they kept working every day as if they were still slaves. They needed a law to remind them to take a day off.
(no this isn’t Moses – it’s me on a brunch weekend away to Loch Lomond but it’s in here to remind me to stop, take a day and go up a hill!)
Blue dots aren’t law for me and I can’t often make them Sundays because of working events on weekends. A whole day is preferable but not always possible. But a blue dot morning or a walk to the studio the long way, on the bike tracks and along the river, that’s making blue dots part of everyday.
I’m trying to make it a way of life. To sustain the energy to perform and to write well – I need gaps.
Recently I went on holiday to the Cairngorms – one of my favourite places in Scotland. I’d happily stuck five blue dots onto the wall planner months earlier. But since then I’d had a big book contract and the book was going to print the week after the holiday. I had final proofs of pages coming in every day so I worked around it, I had to. I got up every morning at 6.30am, did a couple of hours reviewing pages and then met folk for breakfast – it worked – it might not be total switch off but it was better than just working. I worked and then enjoyed mountains… and cake!
Not long after that I was asked to write about being inspired by nature for Books From Scotland – so I wrote about the trip to the Cairngorms – you can read it here. It’s about how places inform writing just as a product of being there – of showing up for a blue dot.
Blue Dot Evenings: Lewis
Last month I was working on an oral history project with a school on the Isle of Lewis – you can read about it on the Historic Environment Scotland blog here. One thing I loved about the team was every evening we went for a mini adventure. We had a walk on a beach, or went to see a stone circle or lighthouse.
(I loved this cave on Lewis – made me want to swim!)
It was a wee recharge of an evening. And we laughed lots too. That really helped when running workshops four days in a row. The blue dot evenings made the days possible.
The Golden Road: Harris
The project team returned to the mainland while I stayed with a friend for another day and night. I’d planned ahead with a dot. I had a slow breakfast, like really slow! And hired a car to drive to the Isle of Harris. It was just me and my orange bug (car) on an adventure on the golden road – yes the road is really called that!
Harris is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Like ridiculous amounts of beauty but all squashed into one small place. I stopped every few 100 meters because it was just so flipping lovely everywhere!
The sheep on Harris did what sheep do, they were standing on the road and siting about. And then I saw these guys. They were different. Organised. In formation. Bleating in harmony. Imagine a Doctor Who episode:
What do you notice about those sheep?
They’re sheep –white and fluffy? They go baaa. They eat grass.
Look more closely.
They’re all facing the same way? Oh and they’re standing together on rocks. They’re in tune…
Yes. The sheep are organised…
And they were looking at me. So I drove off!
And then there were the beaches. Normally beaches are beautiful right enough – sand and cliffs and the view of the sea. But it’s usually sea out to sea. Unless…you’re on Harris where there are mountains (and more sheep).
Like a painter decided to mix all the best elements of a landscape together in one painting that’s really quite unrealistic. But it is real – it’s Harris!
I got the best gin from the Harris Distillery and got my ipad a new jacket from the Harris Tweed Shop. I drove back as the sun set and returned to my friend’s after dark. With memories to take home from the blue dot day on Harris.