My Mind is Free

It’s early morning and ideas for the story are still swirling around my head from waking moments. I head for the study and scribble them on a writing pad before they escape. After a strong coffee, flakes and fruit, I read a couple of chapters of Rankin’s “In a House of Lies”. I read it as a writer, noting the skill and craft he uses to weave the threads of the plot together. And how he makes every little piece of detail count. And I read it as a reader, eager to turn the next page and solve the murder.

I fire up the Mac and open the file labelled “Novel”. I go through the editing from yesterday and make changes here and there. Then I get distracted by WhatsApp messages and decide it’s time for more caffeine. The chopping and changing gets underway again and I begin to slip out of the real world and into a fictional one.

“Leave Only Footprints” was born late one night long ago when I was working away from home. I was staying in a company flat in Germany, feeling nostalgic and missing my family. My laptop was on the coffee table and I’d closed my work Emails. I opened a new Word file and simply started to write. And I wrote until I saw the sun rise.

The novel has mutated a lot since then. Only pieces of the plot, the main cast, the settting and the era have survived. I didn’t set out to write a crime novel, in fact I don’t know what I had in mind. It just grew into one. Over time the characters have become my second family and I know I’m going to miss them when it’s over. Time travelling back to the 1970’s and unravelling two murder cases has been brilliant.

One of my favourite clips from the coronavirus outbreak is part of a BBC TV compilation. It’s of an elderly man with a captivating smile who tells us “My mind is free.” Yes, we are confined to our homes, but our imagination can take us wherever we want to go. We can lose ourselves in a book, in a film, art, music, a video game or even in our own story.


  1. Misia

    Despite the sadness that surrounds us with the Coronavirus, I can’t help but deeply appreciate the time I’ve been afforded to spend with my partner and son. This pause in life has enabled me to read and write and rest. It’s a big, deep breath we’ll never have again. So I’m glad it’s given you the time to lose yourself in your own mind. We should all do it from time x

  2. Nick Sands

    It’s so heartening to hear your positive experience in hard times. I like the idea of it being a deep breath. In this new world we are breathing much cleaner air too. Let’s hope we take the good things with us when we emerge from the crisis. That we value our health and care workers, our local community and our environment. And like you, that we devote more time to our loved ones x

  3. Carol Rutherford

    Like you, Nick, I find that I also read books as a writer, as well as a reader now. I’m currently reading The Beekeeper of Aleppo – a birthday present from Fiona. I can recommend it highly.

    I sometimes feel guilty about my life during lockdown, when I consider how disastrous and, indeed, tragic it has been for many people. Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, I shall treasure this period as an opportunity to share my life with Fi: something I haven’t done, since she went off to university( apart from some holidays together). This time has also been a golden opportunity to get on with the novel!!
    Since my favourite thing to do, usually, is to be off hiking and globe-trotting, I’ve been very surprised by how much I have enjoyed pottering around at home, baking(??!) and doing housework. You never stop learning more about yourself.
    I agree with everything you and Misia have written.

    • Nick Sands

      Your time together with Fiona has clearly been very precious. The protagonist in “Leave Only Footprints” also has his eyes opened to the importance of family. I don’t think you should feel any guilt about your life during lockdown. To my mind, their time is the best gift any parent can give to a child.
      Thank you for recommending The Beekeeper book – the title is intriguing.

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