Katherine Mansfield – A Journey into the Unknown
I have aways been fascinated by Katherine Mansfield’s journey across France at the height of the First World War. It seems such a foolhardy and courageous act. She had ostensibly gone to visit a friend, the journalist, Francis Carco. For this she took the ferry from England and a train crossing through allied territory. All around her was the detritus of war. If you read her journals you get a taste of this journey. I especially remember the normality of life that carried on amongst all the chaos: the peasants on the train with live chickens and ducks, a mother breastfeeding her baby. I also remember Katherine Mansfield having to queue up with her papers, the danger she’d be turned back and that she had to be smuggled into her friend’s quarters.
I’m thinking about this as I travel through France and the Somme region heading for England. My main character in my novel Watercress is also heading for England for the first time since she was a small child. She has uncovered a family secret and now she must act as a result of it.
As I’ve said before writing is a journey into the unknown. We never know where it will lead. Physically it has none of the dangers of Katherine Mansfield’s journey but emotionally, if you are being true, it can feel very dangerous. Good writing demands truth. You reveal yourself and lay yourself bare. It can feel chaotic. Above all it is about taking risks and not conforming to expectation.