‘You get caught in a whirlwind of fright just when you were seeking the sunshine of their love.’

Sue Reid Sexton travels solo in a tiny campervan. Using it as a creative space and general escape hatch, for a day or weeks at a time, she disappears up glens and over mountains to write novels. Writing on the Road is about these flights, but it’s also a travel journal and a guide to living in the moment, to coping when marriage unravels, and staying creative against all odds. And how not to be scared of the dark…

Extract from Writing on the Road
By Sue Reid Sexton
Published by Waverley Books

Beware, also, of the phone call to ‘civilisation’. One night recently my equilibrium was disturbed when, seeking reassurance, I called a friend who turned out to be a few sheets to the wind and speaking truths best kept to himself. I finished the call then drove three miles down the beautiful western side of Loch Awe, as I’d previously planned. This is a long leafy road with almost nothing man-made on it, very beautiful I’m sure, and on a brave more settled day I might have continued. But the call had ruffled me and caused nomophobia to kick in. I turned and came back to a busier spot on the eastern side of the loch. The sunset and early morning view were spectacular from this other road’s height, though if I’d known juggernauts were going to shake me awake at five in the morning I might have gone elsewhere.

It’s worth noting how, from the comfort of my warm sleeping bag, I considered the possibility of being smashed to pieces as they rollicked past, but concluded it was a risk worth taking, such was my comfort, and went back to sleep. It’s all relative, isn’t it?

And speaking of relatives, I try not to fall into the trap of succumbing to their fears as well as my own. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, ‘Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.’ This is a very caring outlook. Many of my family members are also writers. We have some artists and musicians too. When I’ve shared my concerns about the weird guy in the campervan next door, or the violent storm approaching my Tupperware box on wheels, these loving people either ridicule my overactive imagination which, coming from a family of vivid imaginers is a bit rich, or they express their love by suggesting I panic and leave immediately. I’m not sure withholding your fears in order to avoid having them ridiculed or magnified is what RLS meant, but his advice holds water. Your anxiety feeds that of others, which in turn feeds yours. You get caught in a whirlwind of fright just when you were seeking the sunshine of their love.

‘If the wind hits you sideways you’ll be blown right off the road, over the dry-stane dyke and into the valley below. Of course your entrails will be picked over by ravens, so it’s very environmentally friendly, not to mention deeply in tune with the universe,’ said another sarcastic friend when I phoned her from a similarly remote spot on a previous trip. From the darkness of my van, I imagined her lounging on a reassuring and deeply cushioned sofa by the telly. In truth, the laughter her own joke caused her was weirdly comforting.

Or, you can brave it out and tell everyone how great the solitude of the mountain was, how exciting the wind, how beautiful the sky, how cosy your tiny bunk, how interesting the odd man in the next camper is, how inspiring the resounding silence and how you wrote a story which derived from a mad dream you had last night in the light of a starlit sky with the trees turned inside out like white ghosts. In time your bravery will be real, but it can never be real if you don’t go there and survive, and aim to thrive, as you inevitably will.

Writing on the Road: Campervan Love and the Joy of Solitude by Sue Reid Sexton is out now published by Waverley Books priced £8.99.

You might also enjoy this exclusive article ‘Writing En Route’ by Sue, chronicling her trip to through the Midi-Pyrenees with her trusty campervan, on Books from Scotland.

Sue Reid Sexton appears at the Dundee Womens Festival on Thursday 15 March 2018 from 6 to 7pm,  with ‘Writing on the Road: staying happy and creative in a campervan’. Please contact Central Library, Dundee to book a free space on 01382 431500.

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