Writer's Diary, 24th September, 2003.

Added on Wednesday 24 Sep 2003

Hello. Bet you thought I'd done a runner. I must admit to having been sorely tempted.

Famous diarists like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Townsend Warner have written that the (unwritten) law of diary writing is that when interesting things are happening they don't get written down. In my case it's the opposite; when I don't write, I can't write. For quite a while now I've had a bad case of writer's block, and not writing turns me into the dullest person imaginable. I've had to rack my brains to think of anything to put down here, even though I know fine well that once I start they'll come to me.

My radio dramatisation of "Sitting Among The Eskimos" was repeated on August bank holiday Monday, which was quite a coup, and I've got another commission from the BBC. The Afternoon Play again, to be broadcast next August. There, that's something. And I've been invited to go to New York to do readings. No definite dates yet, and it will depend on the Scottish Arts Council giving me a travel grant, so I'm not building my hopes too high.

Also, I turned fifty in July, which was a bit of a shock to the system. I don't know why; I knew it was coming. Fabulous at forty I managed no bother, but fifty requires a whole new mindset. I keep seeing young women with their hair in pigtails, and thinking, I'll never be able to do that now, even though the last time I had pigtails was in Primary Four, and I was mortified. Some of you out there who've known me for a while will be thinking "What the hell is up with her'" And the answer is "Huvnie a scooby; I just know I don't like it".

I did have a lovely time with the family on and around the day itself. One memorable moment was my granddaughter Aimie singing Happy Birthday in Spanish, which she'd learned at nursery. She's recently started primary school, and reports are mixed. According to the teacher, she won't do a thing she's told, and glowers if rebuked. However, she does spend a lot of time in the book corner, singing away to herself. Must be in the genes.

As a birthday gift, my daughter Cara gave me two tickets for the Dixie Chicks concert at the SECC last Friday. It was great to see them live, but the highlight of my night was walking back along the tunnel after the show, and seeing the actress who plays Moira in River City strolling along singing "Wide Open Spaces" at the top of her lungs. I'm sorry I don't know her real name, but she looked and sounded fantastic.

Sadly Cara wasn't able to go to the concert with me. She is expecting her first child in December, and has a condition called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, which makes walking, and almost all movement extremely painful. The tests and scans show that the baby is healthy and very active, but Cara is in almost constant pain. She has had physiotherapy, and has a brace which she doesn't find much of a help. If there are any women out there who have experience of this condition, I'd be grateful if you'd get in touch with me, and I'll pass your comments on to Cara.

On the work front, I'm teaching Adult Literacy a couple of evenings a week for the WEA, and I've been out to Easterhouse Library to meet with the Reading Group and Writers' Group, and both groups were enthusiastic and very welcoming. My friend, Elizabeth Reeder is Writer in Residence in Easterhouse, and she's doing a great job. Elizabeth's also involved with Open Ink. Unfortunately, because of my evening class and having to travel by bus back from Pollok, I didn't make it along to the launch of their new anthology: A Fictional Guide to Scotland, but I do have a copy of the book, and there's some terrific writing in there.

A couple of people from my past have been in touch through the site. Jim Robertson, who was a trainee at a centre in the East End, which I ran a few years back, put a comment on the page. I did try to email you, Jim, but didn't appear to have the right address. And an old friend from Saltcoats, Harry Donachy, got in touch after hearing the repeat of the radio play, and looking me up on the net. Harry and I were both adult pupils at St. Andrew's Academy in Saltcoats, and we went to Glasgow University at the same time. We lost touch after I moved to Glasgow, and it was great to get an email from him. Harry is very active in the local arts scene down there in what he describes as "that cultural desert", despite suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and having to use a wheelchair most of the time. He tells me his latest project is on Environmental Art, and is centred on the changes to Ardrossan Harbour. I'm going down to Saltcoats next weekend, and hopefully I'll catch up with Harry then. Is there anyone else out there I haven't seen for years' So, writers block. Roughly translated it means fear, plain and simple. Fear that the second book won't be as good as the first, and that I'll be judged and found to be a one-hit-wonder.

Precious Little has been drafted, re-drafted, torn up, started again from scratch, and lies half-finished and ignored for days (weeks) on end while I procrastinate and give myself anxiety attacks on the Underground. I've tried all the self-help books, most notably every one Julia Cameron ever wrote. I've also given up booze, and tried therapy. Nothing works. I do know that the only way out is to do it, and that the only way to be a one-hit-wonder is to only write one book. Maybe that's why Donna Tart took ten years to write her second novel, and why Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mocking Bird never wrote another one. I will keep trying, if only for the sake of my poor beleaguered agent, Victoria, who has shown remarkable restraint in not threatening me with litigation (yet). So, if you catch me wandering around the West End looking hunted, then jump out in front of me and shout, "Go home and write", at which point I'll burst into tears, and you'll have to take me for a drink. I know I said I'd given it up, but for medicinal purposes''..