Walking and writing in the south of France


I am writing a book. It is hard going. I keep getting the all-this-has-been-said-before-I-don’t-know-why-I-bother blues.

When it gets really bad, I take an afternoon off to go and walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s route. It passes a few kilometers from our house. I started doing this after I saw an interview with Paulo Coelho, who said he was inspired to write his book ‘The Alchemist’ while walking the Camino.

I never paid much attention to the Camino before. I know that hundreds of thousands of people walk the Camino ever year and that most of these people say that it has been a life-changing experience for them. I know that people have been walking the Camino for nine hundred years, at least. I know that people from all walks of life walk it, whether they are religious or not. I know that several books have been written about it – one of my favourites is the actress Shirley MacLaine’s book ‘The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit’ – and I know that several films have been made about it.

It is just that I have a lot to do, you know. When we are in France, I have the horses to look after. I have the vegetable garden, the flower garden and the herb garden to sort out. I have to take care of our retreat guests when they are here. I have to spend time with my husband and with our friends and family. I barely have time to write , never mind wasting an afternoon walking through the French countryside, however enticing it may be.

It isn’t even as if I am a novice at this. This is not my first book. It is my second book. Several years ago I wrote a book for horse riders who have fallen off their horses, who may have gotten badly injured and who are now too scared to get back on. Horse riders are like that, they always want to get back on their horses even if the idea scares them witless. My book does quite well for itself on Amazon, so I do have some confidence in my ability to write.

The book I am writing now is a book about self-confidence. I am mainly writing it with women readers in mind. I would say that 90% of the women who come here for Equine-assisted Experiential Learning want one thing: to feel more confident, to be more assertive and to be able to say ‘No’ when they need to without feeling guilty and without having to explain why they are refusing. The horses are very good at helping women with that, especially women who have never been anywhere near a horse or are scared of horses. Overcoming their fear of telling a one-ton stallion what to do or where to go certainly increases their confidence, in a very practical way.

So I do know there is a market for a book about self-confidence for women, I just do not know HOW to write it. I do research, right? I read blogpost after blogpost written by people with less qualifications and experience than I have, about what women can do to dramatically increase their self-esteem and self-confidence. Many of these posts are so well written that I doubt if anyone is going to be interested in what I have to say. All this information available for free, why would anyone pay to buy a book about confidence-building when everything that needs to be said has been said most eloquently before?

It really is seriously demotivating. I have so far written 16000+ words. Not being one to give up, I am going to have to finish this book if it kills me. So I walk the Camino. Once a week, if I can. And yes, it is inspiring even if it is also seriously exhausting. I meet people. I meet women who are walking the Camino on their own. Young women. Old women, sometimes way into their seventies. I ask them about confidence. Some of them have been walking the Camino for weeks. Every day they walk 15-20 km (10-15 miles), sleep in dormitories, eat whatever they can grab on their way and carry everything they need in a backpack on their backs.

The women inspire me to keep on writing. One really has to be brain-dead insensitive not to feel inspired by the courage of these women. They also teach me a few things about sustaining confidence that I did not know. Fancy that, there I was thinking I know everything there is to know about the subject. Walking the Camino has even inspired me to create an «Inspiration for Writers Weekend Workshop». Writers with writer’s block come and stay with us for a weekend and walk the Camino. Most of them soon get their motivation to write back. Not altogether sure how much the wine tasting part of the weekend has to do with it…

I take my camera with me when I walk, I have collected a few pictures of the scenery. It is quite breathtaking:

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“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Time to get back to the BOOK. Hopefully, it won’t be a failure. Hopefully, a couple of women will find it and read it. Hopefully, it will help them conquer their fear of failure and give them the confidence they need to achieve their dreams.

Walking and Writing in the south of France