I met a wild woman at the weekend. What makes her a wild woman? Her whole self. She’s eighty next week and can’t walk more than a few steps without having to sit down and take a breath from her inhaler. She insists on doing things around the house even though it’s physically impossible for her now. She won’t use the walker her family have bought her, says it makes her look old.
This is what the self-critic says when I am scribbling in my little notebook. ‘Only writers write and you aren’t a writer’ and yet it’s all I can think about, it’s what I feel I have to do.
So don’t write. Except, except – words flow, ideas, thoughts, little stories. They wake me in the wee small hours and urge me not to go back to sleep but to get up and write them down. Sometimes when I’m really tired I try to ignore them and say I’ll do it in the morning but when that happens I can’t recall them so I know now to get up and do it there and then. Sitting on the top of the stairs with a notebook so I don’t wake anyone else up
When I look later I’ll have written a few key words and from them more thoughts and musings appear. This is when I spend the time crafting it, expanding on it.
I’ve always felt that I wasn’t supposed to write. When I was ten we had to write a poem for homework. I remember that I spent ages getting it just right, getting the words to rhyme. I don’t remember any of the lines except that it was a poem about butterflies.
I was so pleased with my work until my teacher told me he didn’t believe I’d made it up myself, he said it was too good. He called in another teacher and the headmaster and all three of them agreed that I must have taken it from a book, they couldn’t remember who had written it but it couldn’t have been written by me.
Imagine the small child sitting at a desk while three big grown men loom over her, all of them trying to get her to admit that she was lying when she knew she absolutely wasn’t. I think what made it worse was that it was eventually put it up on the wall of the classroom but they were still insisting that I had plagiarised it, which definitely took the shine off it.
So even though I still loved books and reading I never wrote anything as I didn’t think that I could. I think it was this, and similar incidents that lead me to feeling that school wasn’t for me. So I left at age 14 with no qualifications.
I returned to Adult Education a few years later and was so excited to be back at school. I wasn’t the most popular when I asked for homework and was told to write an essay on any topic. The poor tutor had to wade through a 300 word essay with no structure, there were no paragraphs, sentences went on forever and hardly any punctuation but I was oh so pleased with myself.
A year or so later I undertook an O Level in English Literature and I really learnt how to read and enjoy poetry and novels. I learnt how to write essays and assignments and to enjoy the process of writing and editing and rewriting.
I learnt to read not just the words but to see how the author had crafted those words, the images they were trying to conjure up. I read everything and anything – fiction, non-fiction, even the back of a cereal packet.
I read because books are a great escape, they will bring you into another world. Sometimes we have to have some space and time out of our own heads and a book can do that for you. There is nothing better than a rainy day, a roaring fire, a cup of coffee and a cosy blanket as you snuggle up with a good book.
So maybe I’m not a writer and maybe there isn’t anyone out there who wants to read what I write but the words are coming and they want expression through me so I have no choice but to put my little musings on paper (or computer) and let them out.