Because of my life experiences, my fictional characters have to work for their positive outcomes. I hesitate to use the word “happy” ending but prefer to opt for hopeful instead. In Coming Home, my latest book, Kira, the teenage protagonist, undergoes a great deal of heartache and hardship on the journey to find her lost cats. In the first of my Matty trilogy, Matty and the Moonlight Horse, my impulsive female heroine falls in love with not one but two perfect horses. By the end of Book One, she has neither, but learns that if dreams don’t come true they can change and evolve – as we do.
Imperfections, anxieties, flaws and fears are what make us human. Experiences, both positive and negative, inform and affect our thoughts and creative processes. So how, you may ask, does this relate to Nigella Lawson?
I am the total opposite of what is termed a domestic goddess. I can barely cook, for starters (forgive the pun!) and maybe, just maybe, there is a tiny part of me that envies those who can. I avoid cookery programmes on TV and consequently never imagined I could ever have anything in common with a glamorous celebrity such as Nigella Lawson. Funny how, with the help of the media, we construct an image of a person we have never met and don’t know and make judgements. As a writer, who is used to constructing fictional characters, I credit myself with a level of intelligence and awareness that should stop me falling into this trap but I can be as guilty as the next woman.
Back to Nigella, who was recently interviewed in Red magazine. Normally, I would have skipped this article but for some reason, I started to read. I’m glad I did. She is refreshingly honest and I found myself being unexpectedly moved. Nigella “admits” to being a “catastrophiser.” It is telling that I use the word “admits” as if it was a guilty secret. I, too, am habitually drawn towards what my counsellor labelled “catastrophic thinking”. Basically, this means that in certain situations, my mind will identify the worst possible scenarios and conclude their inevitability in a process that seems entirely logical. While this can be useful as a fiction writer, it can stop me doing activities that most “normal” people would perform without turning a hair and can really interfere with daily life. But I try to hide this behavioural trait since I know from past experience that the majority of people often regard it as weird and incomprehensible. Certain life events, such as major bereavement, can reinforce catastrophic thinking, which Nigella reflects upon, having lost three of the people she loved to cancer. Something else we have in common. Dealing with catastrophic thinking can be an exhausting battle and she describes herself as a worrier and prone to being fearful, which I can totally identify with. Her frankness resonated enormously and I have huge respect for this. It was also a real lesson for me on stereotyping people as a result of media hype. Reading the interview left me feeling inspired to acknowledge and tackle issues and emotions that I tend to hide from, and not to shy away from expressing these through my writing.
Oh, and another thing Nigella and I have in common too – a belief that calorie counting and dieting makes you miserable, “draining the pleasure out of life”. Well said, Nigella. I think women everywhere would agree on that! Although this may make my resolution to lose weight in 2013 rather tricky…..