It will surprise none of my regular readers to know that I’m writing a wine related book. I’ve been encouraged by friends to do this for a long time, and also encouraged just as long to write one about my experiences in Nepal, as a mountaineer, the chairman of an education charity, and most importantly as a member of my wife’s Nepalese family in Kathmandu. I didn’t intend to write anything about my strategy and process until I read Darlene’s blog post A Life in the Day of a Writer on her day as a professional writer which I found interesting and very valuable.
I’ve always been an early bird for doing anything creative, for example I have completed a chapter in my wine book this morning having started at 6am. It’s now 8am and I’m writing this blog post before breakfast. By 9am I’ll have finished and will probably do no more writing until tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean I won’t jot down a thought or two on my iPhone or iPad as they occur to me across the day.
I was most interested to read in Darlene’s post how she gets inspiration from being out walking her dog or stopping in cafes and observing or talking to people of different backgrounds or occupations, and it got me thinking how much I was lacking or missing. You see, one of the differences between the writing of Darlene and myself is one of fiction vs non fiction with my own Nepal book and this one on wine being more of a memoir and based on personal experiences. In some cases I have got previously written material in diaries, notebooks or blog posts, but often I am just digging around in my ageing brain to recall an incident, a conversation or a particular wine and how it tasted. And, using the Darlene experience, if I was sitting writing my notes or draft in Bar 66 in Beaune, Burgundy, or could sit with John in Bar Chablisienne in Chablis, or do a bit of vine pruning with Steve or William at Domaine Rebourgeon in Pommard, then I’m sure I could bring a greater richness or depth to my writing which at times seems too academic and without any sensory or emotional input. I’m struggling to know how I can do this as there isn’t a decent wine bar around here for miles, although there are one or two small vineyards within a 30 mile radius. Any suggestions gratefully received!
Conversely however I DO have a clear structure for the wine book, a system for capturing information and writing, as well a lot of learning about the technicalities of publishing on Amazon from my An Englishman in Nepal effort which I will share in my next post. In the meantime don’t forget to let me have any suggestions on inspiration for writing non fiction and here’s a few images likely to make it into the chapter I’ve finished this morning on the wines of Alsace and some of our visits and tastings there.
Morning or should it be Bonjour. I hope you are well and enduring the virus situation. I have found writing quite difficult in this restricted period and struggling for inspiration. That is exactly for the reason you state – we cannot travel and to be in situ as it were gives the best inspiration. I have found going back over old photos very useful in getting inspiration and I did that a lot in finishing my wine book. I also keep wine labels from domains we have visited and that was a great help. Reading about the subject also gave inspiration. I have a couple of old books by the wine writer Alexis Lichine on French vineyards and they were very inspirational. Try and find those – or you may have them of course. If all else fails then you can always resort to opening a bottle or two. I look forward to your book very much. Neal
ps Could you stop mentioning Beaune – it is depressing me. I want to be there!
Hi Neal, I really must apologise for seemingly not replying to your comment, I was just clearing out my spam folder and there it was. Bizarre! Anyway, sorry about mentioning B***** too much, I’ll start mentioning Chinon, Meursault, Saumur etc instead. All set to go now, kindle book on 30th and print version around 5th December. A good Christmas present I hope 🍷🍷🤞
I’ve never worked in a vineyard but I have picked berries with family and friends, and other that the nature of the physical activity, I doubt the experience is very different. I assume you know Steve and William, and you have been to Domaine Rebourgeon so your stage and characters are established. Ask yourself questions: 1) what is the day like? Sunny and hot? overcast? windy? Is threatening weather looming putting an urgency into your work? How does the weather affect your work, your temperament? 2) Have you pruned vines before or is Steve instructing you? How do the secateurs feel in your hand? Do your hands, shoulders, arms get tired after a while? How well do you manage over the slope/rocky soil, stumble occasionally, for example? 3) What do you talk about? Well, based on my experiences berry-picking, you gossip. You talk about family and friends, the anniversary party last week and how well you liked the pairing of food and wine, what’s for supper tonight, will Brexit have any effect on wine sales, last year’s wine and how well it sold or will cellar, immigrants flooding Europe, whatever crosses your mind. The trick is to paint such a vivid scene that it makes readers believe they are in the vineyard with you and Steve. Ditto with John in Bar Chablisienne or wherever you’ve taken the reader. I hope this helps a bit. And I hope I haven’t sounded pedantic.
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Thank you Margaret, not pedantic at all. I really appreciate your feedback and the time it must have taken you to write it. What you are describing is a lot like “mindfulness” in Buddhist meditation, for example I have a favourite temple in Kathmandu and I often meditate using the same approach to “place myself” there. I think that a lot of my problem is to do with the environment in which I’m currently writing, there is no single place that helps my mind to write better chapters using the notes I already have. I’m supposing that sitting in some favourite wine bars or brasseries in Burgundy would help, but maybe not. Certainly a lot of my chapters are memoirs of specific visits to vineyards or wine villages and I use photographs from those visits to trigger the words and sentences I need. Perhaps that is the answer and I need to do it more!
I do hope your wine book will have photos in it as you have some great ones. Thanks for the mention and I´m glad you got a few ideas. I guess I could add reading other blogs is part of our research and inspiration!
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love the bike photo!
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It’s a cracker and almost a piece of floral artwork now!
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