~ Hazel Harps On

Castles, Boxes and Slow-growing Seeds

As if I wasn’t busy enough I’ve gone and got myself a day job. I’m going to be working for the National Trust at Dunster Castle. I’ve played harp there many times but now I’ll be interacting with the public in a different role. My workplace is historical, fascinating and utterly beautiful, and of course it’s bound to supply inspiration for future stories, maybe even novels.

Over the National Trust training week two principles kept arising and it struck me that they apply very much to music and writing as well. The first is this: THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. I’ll give only one little example because I’m dying to boast about it. My novel was one of only three semi-finalists in the Siskiyou Prize for Environmental Literature. For what? Yes, Environmental Literature. I am doubly proud. Although I see the novel mainly as a quirky literary fiction (and some would argue it’s a romance) this competition opened my eyes to other elements in my own writing. I’ve banged on about nature a lot in it, so why not put it in the environmental category, too? It’s made me realise this is something I care passionately about and put a new possibility in my head. Maybe in my next novel I can not only entertain and move people but do something towards the protection of wildlife as well. Which brings me on to the second of those National Trust principles: THINK LONG-TERM.

I’ve just counted the pieces in my solo harp repertoire and realised there are fifty-six! Seventy-one if you include Christmas pieces. Add to this the accompaniments I play with Saffron, with the Dorylas Duo and Fox Willow and the total is way over a hundred, nearly all of which I play by heart. I have to say, I’m actually quite impressed with myself. But (sadly) this long list wasn’t achieved because I have superpowers. It didn’t happen overnight. No, it’s taken years and years… but plugging away got me there eventually. It was the long-term goal that kept me going through the tough times.

With writing this is yet more relevant. Especially novels… how many years…? A recent success underlined for me the importance of never, ever giving up. I’d submitted the outline of an article to Writing Magazine and, as they hadn’t got back to me, I assumed they didn’t want it. Then, months later, a we’d-like-to-see-it email pinged into my inbox. It was soon followed by a we’d-like-to-publish-it and let’s-have-the-next-one-too email. How excellent was that? Something very similar has just happened with my novel, but I’m not going to jinx it by giving any details…

Suffice it to say that seeds can sit in the ground for a hell of a long time before they start to sprout.

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