Creativity comes in all forms and in this series I wanted to cover all different areas of creativity. Today’s episode is all about my talented friend and writer Nicola Williams, whose passion for writing is truly infectious and always has me fascination when she talks about the things she loves. Hope you enjoy!
Hello! Ok, so let’s start by you telling us a bit about yourself…
I’m Nicola, a writer living in Wallasey, Merseyside and I’m working on my first novel, Cormorano. I work full-time for The Reader, a charity based in the beautiful Calderstones Park in Liverpool. My role as the Site Operations Manager keeps me very busy but I try my best to put pen to paper as much as possible. I’ve lived and worked in many different places in the world and am now settled on the Wirral peninsula with my lovely husband, lucky enough to be surrounded by beaches, the sea, and lots of fresh air, but also close enough to the lively hustle and bustle of Liverpool.
What got you into writing?
Definitely books. I was compared to Matilda as a child, helped on by the fact that I had a little girl’s bob and powered my way through lots and lots of books. But I always wrote little stories when I was younger. I remember days during half terms or summer holidays having to go to my mum’s work (a local post office) and to be honest, I was quite happy sitting there all day with my notepad making up stories and drawing pictures. I never let anyone read my writings, even at a young age. I was shy and was afraid to show people what I had spent my time doing. As I grew up, I harbored my creativity in some respect, doodling, scrapbooking, colouring in etc. After university, I tried my hand at poetry. Now this was a secret, probably because poetry came from somewhere very private, and during some very difficult personal times, it became my outlet. They say, when you’re hurting you write some of the best things you’ve ever written, so there was a silver lining in there somewhere.
The lazy boats sit retired and idle
on the washed-up shore.
Their ancient paintwork flakes away;
one day it was worthy
of that of a majestic ship.
The stern rocks quietly in a way
that releases all captivated energy
of days that once were.
Sunlight streams through cracks in the wood;
the rope that ties it to a life of today
remains as strong as always.
One day I decided to submit a poem to an online anthology and to my surprise it was accepted. Soon enough, I wasn’t so afraid to let people read my work. It was about growing up and understanding myself a bit more. So what if some people don’t like poetry, so what if I wasn’t amazing at it; it became ‘my thing’ and I found a new confidence in my writing ability. In 2011, I enrolled onto a Master’s degree in Writing and have been building on that confidence ever since.
What do you love most about writing?
Mostly, the outlet that it can provide. Like books, it provides me with a means of escapism and I can really feel myself change if I don’t harness it. I can become frustrated and irritated but writing (like reading) gives me that space to zone out of our crazy world and simply concentrate on creating stories and making others feel something special. I also love that it lets others see a different side of me.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I definitely get inspiration from places and tangible things, as well as family and history. Cormorano is inspired by the early life of my Nanna who was 9 when the Second World War started and she lived in the Italian part of Liverpool. Her memories and recollections sparked something in me and I had to tell her story, fact through fiction. There are elements of her and my other grandparents weaved throughout the novel as an acknowledgement of their experiences during that time.
In terms of poetry writing, these words mostly come from a sense of place and looking closely at the world around me; sunsets, the sea, skies, cities, countries etc. but of course like all poets, I also listen deeply to my emotions and inspiration can come from anywhere; whilst watching a news report, spending the day with my family, or catching a moment in time as I walk down the street. It can literally be anything. That’s why it’s so important for me to look up every now and then and really see things around me, inspiration is everywhere, you’ve just got to let it in.
How do you balance full-time work and creative/side project work?
Very good question and something I struggle with. No doubt lots of writers/creatives will be of the same opinion. My current role is quite physically demanding sometimes and no day is ever the same. As much as I love my job and the cause that we work towards, it can be very reactive and that state of mind can be tricky to sustain. My evenings are either spent at the gym, playing tennis, or seeing family. These things feed my soul just as much as writing does. I write of a weekend and take blocks of time off work so I can tend to the creative need within me.
One of the best things I am involved in is a writing group. However, it’s not a community/open group. Three wonderful ladies, and myself who I met whilst studying for my Masters, meet every month to review, critique and support each other’s writing. We’ve worked together for five years now and have helped each other through an enormous amount of personal and professional times. When I’m tired from work and perhaps not enthusiastic about picking up my pen, one hour with these ladies gives me the kick up the bum I need!
How do you switch off and re-charge?
I read! Books are so important to me and give me the nourishment my mind and soul needs to feel whole. Life can sometimes be frantic, so to be able to pop in and out of other worlds is amazing.
When I’m not buried in a book then I’m likely to be with my wonderful chap Matt, either relaxing at home, exploring somewhere new, drinking tea, or seeing our families. Going to the gym and playing tennis also allows me to switch off; a healthy body/healthy mind really works for me too!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to writing?
I would say that if it is in you to write, if you can feel the words forming like absolute ‘things’ then do it! Let them out. Find your own way of doing it, whether it’s through novel-writing, poetry, songwriting, or playwriting… whatever! Listen to your inner being, your internal self. Don’t make the mistake I did when I was younger and be afraid to let this skill be known to others, be proud of your creativity. There’s a quote I love from Rainer Maria Rilke that sums up what I’m saying:
‘Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.’
What has been the best advice someone has given to you?
Not all teachers/professors/academics are right.
Yes, listen to them, respect them, but if your gut suggests that their advice is not actually best for you, your writing or your thought processes, then it doesn’t mean you have to go with it. Trust yourself and your words.
Can you name a book that changed your life or helped you in any sort of way?
After three years at university studying English Language & Linguistics, I found myself with more time to read for pleasure rather than to learn theory. I remember going shopping one day and buying nothing but books! One of them was the above novel. It came at the right time in my life… my mum was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, my two grandmothers were nearing the end of their lives and I became angry with life. This book was the perfect antidote. It made me feel good about humanity again. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a go, it’s beautiful. My favourite quote also comes from this novel, which means so much to me that it’s tattooed on my wrist…
‘Find the always within never.’
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself that some people won’t know about you?
Oh this is tricky! I can do many a different accent which surprises people sometimes, when I break into a thick Scottish accent in the office or make my niece and nephews laugh with a Jamaican version of head, shoulders, knees and toes! Not a hilariously funny ‘fun fact’ but at least I can make the kids laugh.
What is your why with your creativity?
Pure and simple, it’s a part of who I am. From a quiet, shy little girl, who sat in that Post Office writing stories while her mum worked all day, to the 31 year-old full-time working woman I am today. Whether I’m relaxing on the couch doodling nonsense or reading, or sat at my desk looking out over the River Mersey and editing the third draft of my first full novel… I listen to that internal voice, to that ‘reason that commands me to write’. That’s my why.
Nicola’s Blog: www.nicolawilliamsonline.com
All images taken from Nicola’s blog*