I am writing for the first time in four weeks. Just reading that sentence makes my stomach crease with panic and yet taking the first month of the summer holidays off - something unprecedented since writing full-time; and unknown when I worked as a journalist - has been a creative thing to do. With builders knocking my house apart, I fled to the most southernly tip of Britain - the Lizard peninsula - keen to escape everything: social media; the relentless organisation of life as a parent of two young children; the unfounded anxiety that no one would buy my current book; the very busy-ness that stuffs my head around publication and can threaten to overwhelm.
Although The Farm at the Edge of the World is set on the north Cornwall coast, I wasn't particular about which part of the Cornish coast we visited. I was interested in extremity. A spot at the edge of Britain where the sea stretched in front of me and I could envisage utter, perfect isolation - though, this being Cornwall in the first week of the summer holidays and me holidaying with my husband and two children, that was rather a tough call. Most of all I craved somewhere where phones wouldn't work and where my children wouldn't mention the iPad we'd decided not to take. A place in which to detox technologically, and to wind down until my main consideration was when to plunge into the icy sea for a swim and whether I could bear to do so when the skies were molten and my skin was pimpled with goose bumps. A place where my eleven and eight-year-olds would race to be the first in the sea; and bound ahead of us along the cliff path like the springer spaniels they fell in love with. A spot where the first view in the morning would be the sea; and the air would be thick with the smell of sea salt and lush, dew-soaked grass.
We found all this camping at Coverack, watching the sun set over the limpid water beyond the harbour; and as we plunged into the coldest sea I have ever swum in: the churning waves that swallowed up my youngest and spat him out again at Kynance cove.
I found this sense of serenity, too on a trip to Penzance - truly the edge of the world - where I floated in the art deco salt-water Lido and watched the clouds scud across a royal blue sky, conscious that my mind was being emptied of all preoccupations and worries and refilled with new snippets of ideas for stories; and that all I need do, in this safe, contained place which fired my creativity, was to let the water buoy me up, keep me afloat.
It's a truism that such moments of intense relaxation are the stuff that holidays are made of. Each year I experience them and each year I vow to hold onto them. Inevitably, I fail. But this year, I'm going to cling on to the emotions felt on those Cornish cliffs and in the sea and evoked, I hope, by my Cornish novel. That sense that many of the things I worry about are mere clutter: superfluous compared to my priorities. And, as I begin plotting my next novel, I'm going to use these memories and these images to try to replicate those rare moments of calmness; moments that let me drift to the edge of my imaginative world.