I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Diaries started when I was only about 7 years of age, when my Aunty and Uncle included a tiny blue diary in my Christmas stocking. I wrote what I’d had for tea and that I’d played out on my bike. There wasn’t much room in the diary, or my imagination or my vocabulary at that stage, I’m sure you will appreciate.
Fast forward to age 11 and I used my birthday book token to buy The Judy Blume Diary. I loved Judy Blume. (We all loved Judy. She was the Fairy Godmother that got us all through puberty, but that whole thing with the sanitary towel belt in “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” had me really confused and concerned. Thank God for the powers of self-adhesion.) I digress. This was a diary that came with illustrations, and suggested ‘fun activities’ such as listing your top five whatevers. In hindsight it was really annoying, but the point is, I was 11 or 12 and god, the whole world is so enticing and terrifying at that age, so I wrote it all down. Alongside my musings about whatever boy I fancied, or other worldly dramas, I coloured in the illustrations. It makes my heart ache to think of my little self – traumatised by the Helter-Skelter that is puberty, but still colouring-in like a little girl. Sadly, I read it back when I was in my (far more mature) early twenties, and it made me cringe so much, I threw it away in a massive declutter spree. I have never ever discarded any personal writing or letters ever since. I would LOVE to read that book again.
In a deservingly cruel twist of fate, I now read back my twenty-two year old “journals” (diaries are for kids, right?) and still cringe. I cringe at how pretentious I was with my language, and my still adolescent drama’s, drunken scribblings and I laugh at myself. Yes, twenty-two year old me, I am laughing AT you. And it serves you right for throwing away your poor little 11 year old self’s diary. (I’m not even sure about the grammar of that sentence, but twenty-two year old me needs telling.)
After Judy Blume, I think I left the whole thing alone for a few years, and during GCSE English, I wrote some cracking stories that Mr. H loved. There was one about three characters called Vera, Chuck and Dave who were smugglers on a Belgian trawler. They drank too much John Smiths and fell asleep under a tree, dreaming that the Mekons from Dan Dare had come to invade Earth. Then they woke up to discover that it was true. Or something. It was ace. I stole my characters, obviously, and I was heavily influenced by sixties music and the comedy of the nineties: Lee and Herrings fist of fun, The Mary Whitehouse experience. I think Mr H mainly like the part about the beer….
Then Mum died. All I could find was an old exercise book. I ripped out the used pages and just started writing letters to her, telling her how I was feeling, asking her questions. I’d write down all my fears, frustrations, joys. Sometimes I’d write so urgently, and for so long, that my hand cramped up and I struggle now to decipher what I wrote. As long as I could write, I was never alone, and I would never go mad from grief. Writing was and still is catharsis.
Unbeknownst to my conscious brain, writing was happening in other parts of my life too. During my final year at Liverpool University, as part of a communications module, I had to write a piece intended for The New Scientist on a topic of my choice. I submitted 300 words about a new treatment for erectile dysfunction. My professor pulled me into her office and interrogated me – where had I plagiarised it from? This was in 1998, the internet was still in it’s infancy and plagiarism hadn’t even crossed my mind as a tool to aid my frankly, pitiful grades. She awarded me 75% and gave me the very strong impression that she was keeping an eye on me. She did not believe that a borderline 2:2 student was capable of that. Later, in my ‘mature’ studies for Physiotherapy, I enjoyed the part where all my research was done, and I could ‘craft’ the essay.
While travelling, I continued to keep journals, and enjoyed rewriting theses into entertaining emails for family and friends. I had a brief spell attending a night class in creative writing, in the hope that I could challenge my writing a bit more and stretch my personal experiences and imagination into stories. But the poet teacher told me my hard grafted homework poem was archaic, and pulled it apart ruthlessly. I never went back. I later ran into a man who had also been in the class. He remembered a line from my poem, and told me that everyone left after that because she gradually bullied them all away.
In the last few years I have written less frequently. The reason is, because I’m happier now. ‘Happy’ is a big word and the complexity of why a person feels happy is not for this post, but in essence, I have love in my life. So I found whenever I sat down to write, I’d feel a bit stuck. I had no need to offload anymore, because everything is just fine. But I missed writing. I missed the quiet contemplation. I missed the way my racing thoughts would unravel onto the page, forming orderly reasoning. I missed the sense of relaxation and time lost. I missed getting to the end of another notebook and going out to choose a new one. I missed choosing a short poem to write on the first page – a poem that chimed with how I felt at that time in my life. So starting this blog was in part a way to rediscover that.
Lately though, you will have noticed that there are fewer words and more pictures. I just don’t seem to be able to discipline myself enough to write the kind of blog posts that I’d like, despite having so many ideas! I made a semi-conscious decision that I wanted to write more informative posts, rather than every single one being “Here’s what we did today…!” As it happens, those type of posts take longer to construct, because the topics I’d like to write about, I’d also like to make sure they are well researched and with useful links in them. That part takes time, and I’m quite out of the habit of conducting research, so I lose track of all the bitty bits of research I have managed to do! So the drafts are all sitting there with random sentences all over the place, and that makes me feel unsettled and demotivated. I don’t have a plan how to deal with that yet. Should I do another Blog Every Day challenge? Should I try and start a series on a topic that interests me? Should I join in with one of the many linkies out there?
Why did you start writing? Where has it taken you? How do you make the time to write?