Three years ago:
The first story I remember writing was about a picnic.
I was very young – I’d just learnt to write – and I can remember we were given an exercise book with lines in and were asked to write a story. Most of the other children wrote half a page, or a page at the most. But I filled the whole book. The teacher was excited. She showed my mum. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t think it was anything special.
Then I remember my ‘O’ level English teacher. She was always full of praise, although she’d knock marks off for spelling and grammatical mistakes. I remember writing a story and using the word “nothingness”. She was excited and said I had made a word up. I didn’t think I had, I was sure it was a word, and a few months ago I Googled it, and it was there. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
Then I took my ‘A’ levels and studied English, French and Spanish. What a disaster! Hours spent trying to learn passages of books by heart. Criticising poetry. Saying what the author meant. How you can say what the author meant? They might not even know themselves! Symbolism. Stanzas. Looking at the creative and dismantling it. Getting marks for getting the “right” answers and losing marks for disagreeing. What a disappointment. I didn’t write a story again until last weekend – approximately thirty years later.
I always have plenty of words in my head. I write words on the back of my teeth with my tongue. I work out if they have odd or even letters and how they would look in a stack – whether they would balance. I thought everyone did this, but when I asked my friend she said no, they don’t.
I love words. I like trying to find the one that means exactly how I am feeling. I like the shock of dropping a swear word in to add a bit of contrast. I have always loved reading, and now I am finding that I enjoy reading my own words. I have got the idea for a novel and I sketched out the outline this morning.
I have been writing “morning pages” for a year now. I read about them in a self-help book by Julia Cameron called The Artists Way. It makes people feel uncomfortable when I do it, so I try and find a quiet spot, out of the way. I write all sorts of things, whatever comes into my head, so it isn’t easy reading and I hide them afterwards as they can be upsetting.
But today as I started to write it was different. A short story came into my head, so I wrote that down, and then these words came into my head too. I have to write quickly as they tumble out and flow, and I have to get them down before they disappear. They all come out in one stream, almost as if I don’t have to think, I just record them, then I re-read them, and then I feel better.
I want to show them to the world. Some are uncomfortable, and I may have to keep those private, at least while I find my feet. But I am so excited to be writing again. It makes me feel better, and I don’t want to stop.
Three years later:
I have finally entered my first “fiction” writing competition. When I think back to those early days at school, I remember thinking “what’s the point of making it up, surely you need a story?” Now, all these years later, it seems that I have finally found my story.