How a broken toilet seat solved a conundrum

In the four or five weeks since I delivered ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’ to my agent, my life has not been writing-friendly.

Between the nightmare chaos of having builders in to fix the roof and fit a new bathroom, and the fun chaos of lots of visitors, there simply hasn’t been time for work.

What I had been planning to do after everything quietened down last weekend was decorate the rooms where the leaky roof had done most damage, but I couldn’t face it – I just wanted to get back to my writing.

The problem was, I couldn’t decide what to write. I had two projects in development – a children’s series to follow my Peony Pinker books, and an adults’ book similar to ‘Writing in the House of Dreams.’ Both of these ideas felt interesting and exciting, in completely different ways.

My heart said do the latter, even though I didn’t have much more than a bunch of vague ideas and a few scribbled notes.  My head said do the former, because I had already written a full synopsis and half of the first story, and my agent had given it the thumbs-up. So I was faced with a conundrum.

I still hadn’t made up my mind the next morning, when my brand new toilet seat broke, dragging me away from my just-getting-back-to-normal life and dumping me back in the local B and Q, where I seemed to have spent most of the previous month.

I felt tetchy. I’d paid nearly thirty quid for that toilet seat, and you could have fashioned better fixings out of tin foil. I felt even more tetchy when the local store insisted that, as I’d bought it at a different branch an hour’s drive away, that’s where I would have to take it back to.

I bought a second toilet seat, tossed the faulty one in the boot, and set off for home. But it felt such an irritating waste of a morning that I took a diversion and drove out to the holy well at Saint Clether.

The holy well is a magical place, full of history and mystery, nestled in a beautiful valley. In my experience, it isn’t possible to stay confused, angry or upset for long, within its ancient walls.

St Clether holy well

As I tramped along the path, I suddenly remembered how I had come to the well before, when I was faced with exactly the same writing dilemma. My head had been telling me try and get a contract for another children’s series, but my heart wanted to throw common sense to the winds and focus on my dream book for a while.

The version of my dream book I was working on at that time was called ‘Pomegranate’, after the myth of Persephone. When I got to the well, I found lots of people celebrating the celtic festival of harvest, and among the coins and crystals left as offerings in the wall, someone had managed to perch a pomegranate.

I could not have been more astonished if the skies had opened and the voice of God boomed out, ‘Write “Pomegranate!”‘

I did, and I had never regretted that decision. So now I was alert for any signs or portents that might give me a heads-up this time. I went into the little chapel, picked up a candle to light, and just stood there. The working title of my current adults’ book idea is ‘Sixty Candles.’

When it comes to writing, I find that the heart usually does get its own way in the end, but often not before a fair few steps in the opposite direction, unless Life gives me a shove (I’ll be blogging about signs and portents next week)

If the toilet seat hadn’t broken, I wouldn’t have had to go to B and Q. If the local store had been willing to exchange it, I wouldn’t have felt so cross that I needed a calming diversion.

If I hadn’t gone to the well, I wouldn’t have remembered the last time I was faced with this exact conundrum. I probably would have gone on dithering between my two projects for weeks, instead of being able to throw myself whole-heartedly into one of them.

So my broken toilet seat solved a conundrum. What had seemed a completely irritating, bad thing, triggered a very positive train of events.

Have you ever had a bad experience that turned out to have been a good thing?

Nothing is ever good or bad, but thinking makes it so ~ Shakespeare

11 thoughts on “How a broken toilet seat solved a conundrum”

  1. Wonderful description of a writer’s life. For a while I had a problem with Mormons visiting once a week. Never turned that into anything useful, until they opened their family history unit and I ended up with much of the material for my current blog. Not sure whether that is going to prove ‘a good thing.’ Great to know other writers live in chaos too.

    1. I like to think it’s a kind of organised chaos – organised not by timetables, but by a kind of magic! William, could you supply the link to your blog in case other readers would like to see the Mormon connection?

  2. Isn’t it wonderful how things can turn out better than we imagined and glad it did for you! I’m a great believer in trusting your intuition if something isn’t going to plan. If it’s not meant to be, then leave it alone. The right door will open at the right time and it will lead to something greater than you first thought.

  3. Hi rumpydog and Carolyn – thank you for commenting. I think writers may surrender to the flow more easily than some, because we have to do it in our work – creativity always starts with listening, being receptive and following our intuition.

  4. What a lovely story. It never fails to amaze me how signs can lead you in a certain direction and confirm what your heart really wants. The pomegranate discovery must have been incredible! I have had a lot of odd things happen like this, nearly always with birds – pigeon incidents seem to be the most recurring.

  5. That’s so interesting! Birds feature strongly in my dreams, and often in these waking-life incidents as well, and I know several other people who have experienced birds as signs and portents. I don’t know whether birds have the same sort of mythology as bees and dolphins, which are supposed to tune in and respond to human emotions and situations. It feels like they should…

  6. What a lovely story, Jenny! Don’t envy you the leaky roof or broken toilet seat, but maybe it’s a good thing we are sometimes forced away from the computer and out of our own heads to notice the world?

    New book sounds great, by the way!

  7. Hi Katherine – I agree it can be a good thing when life prises us away from the computer, but I still start out resenting it! I lulu-titled ‘Sixty Candles’ and discovered that it’s got a 35% chance of being a bestseller, which is a heck of a lot better than any of my previous titles/working titles. You gotta love statistics 🙂

  8. Thank you Sherri – I’m enjoying checking out all these blogs too – love your title, ‘A Taste of Sherri’!

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