Today, I want to share with you a little of my writing experience. If there are people out there who are new to writing, or even if there are people who are feeling a little stuck, maybe it will help you to know you aren’t alone.
I have always written (although, sometimes, it has been only in my head). As an only child who was obsessed with Enid Blyton, I wrote a lot of boarding school stories. But not just boarding schools. They all had the common theme of friendship and togetherness. I think it was my way of feeling less lonely. If I could live in this fantasy world that inhabited a myriad of other children and adults, then I wasn’t on my own.
I continued writing through my school years. I never shared my work, though, until I was about seventeen, and I wrote a poem for my Dad, called ‘Daddy’s Girl.’ It was the first time he ever visibly showed how proud he was. His eyes watered and he pulled me into an embrace. For weeks, every time he saw someone knew, he told them about my poem.
Having found something my Dad thought I was good at, I shared some more of my poetry. A lot of it was angsty teenage stuff. But not all. My father, who worked at an expensive private school, took a sample of my poetry to show the head of the English department. I dreaded her response. Surely, I thought, she will see through my superficial talent, to the wannabe writer underneath. In fact, when she came back to us, she said I had real talent and should think about submitting some of my poems to journals. I always thought she only said it because she didn’t want to hurt Dad’s feelings. So I did nothing with my work.
After school, I went to university to study a BA (Hons) degree in Literary Studies. Whilst there, I took a small, four-week module of Creative Writing. This module ended all dreams I had of becoming a writer. We had to write a poem and a story that went together. It took all my courage to write about my experiences of depression. I was in a particularly bad place at the time, anyway. When it came to the class, we all gathered around in a circle and started to go through people’s work. When it came to mine, the tutor read it out. Butterflies tossed in my stomach. He then said it was written by someone who clearly had no first hand knowledge of depression and no imagination. Tears burned my eyes and I wanted to disappear. Three or four of his teacher’s pets joined in and agreed with him. My dreams dissipated. I desperately wanted to turn back the time and write something else.
After the lesson, three people came up to me separately and said he was out of order. They all apologised for not defending me. One of them said she had experienced depression and I described it perfectly. She said it was the tutor who had clearly never experienced it. But it was too late. I was too fragile and couldn’t handle the criticism. So I didn’t write for another seventeen years. I lost all confidence, and there wasn’t much there to begin with. I still had stories in my head. Only, I never shared them. I had written a daily journal ever since I received a pretty notebook for Christmas when I was thirteen. I never missed a day. Until that moment in my creative writing class.
Why am I writing all of this? Well, there is a reason. I want to tell you how important it is to have belief in yourself. No matter the level of your talent or experience, your work is your work, and you should always be proud of having written it. Everyone starts out writing at different levels of natural ability. Just as is the case with painting or singing. What matters is what we do with it.
I started writing again in May 2015. I had gone through years of mental illness. At the time, I was in the throes of PTSD. Medications and therapies weren’t helping. I was barely making it through the day (and night). Then, my doctor suggested writing about my thoughts and experiences. Reluctantly, I tried. Then I looked for a few prompts online, so I could try to write some stories or poems. My hubby read some of my writing and told me I was really good (well, he kind of had to, right?). He searched for an online writing group, which I joined and nervously shared a poem. The positive response I had blew me away. It unlocked a floodgate of years worth of writing I had stored inside me. So many people seemed to genuinely like my work. One person told me I had the kind of natural talent most people could only dream of.
You know what the really good thing about this site is? I now welcome constructive criticism because I want to improve. I want to be the best possible writer I can, and I believe that I’m improving.
So, we’re back to belief again. When I started writing again, I looked for people who gave advice on the subject, and I came across Jeff Goins. I signed up for his emails, and I’ve learned so much from reading them. But the most important thing I learned from him is if you want to be a writer, you have to believe you are one. I know, that sounds a little goofy. But, not really. It makes sense. It’s about belief and it’s about visualisation. If you can’t believe you are a writer, why should anyone else believe it? So I bought myself a coffee mug just like this one:
I also bought a coaster that reads, “First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.” It really did make a difference. Whenever I was writing, I could see reminders that I was a writer. I still have them today. My outlook has changed as well. I’m starting to believe I have some talent. I’m sharing my story on this blog. My life is spent working toward my goal of being a successful writer. I’m daring to believe I can do this. All right, so I won’t always hit the mark. But that’s okay. Nobody does 100% of the time. And, what’s more, I’m enjoying the process of trying new things. Blogging is more fun than I thought it would be.
I am a writer. I believe that I am now. I can tell by the constant stories that turn around in my head, and I know by the way my fingers start to twitch when I don’t write anything for more than twenty-four hours. I am a writer.