Tuesday, 30 January 2007

On Writing, Blogging and Life

As the end of the first month of blogging draws to a close, I’ve been thinking…

I started this blog as an experiment, and to get me writing for my PhD, but it is turning into so much more than that. Writing is a lonely occupation, and even though the old image of the writer in the garret has been dispelled since I’ve met ‘real’ writers, it can still be terribly isolating.

I’ve been writing since I was big enough to hold a crayon. I sat under the kitchen table making up songs and scribbling stories down, much to the amusement of the grown-ups. I drifted through those early years in a haze of make-believe in which everything and anything was possible, but then something happened; a month before my 7th birthday, my parents decided to go ‘home’, and at the end of 1976, having missed the hottest British summer on record, we arrived in time for the worst winter.

Everything changed. I was thrown into realism, and it was a gritty, dark urban realism at that. I had felt normal in the mountains and forests of British Columbia - at the very least eccentric - but in England I was weird, strange, laughable. To say it was a culture shock is like saying the universe is quite big. I seemed to have an un-erring knack of upsetting the local kids, whether it was calling the girls guys, or reading too many books and using ‘big words’. But all that unabashed confidence, the arrogance perhaps, of the North American Kid, was soon kicked out of me. Looking back, perhaps seeking solace in the adults around me and the teachers at school, did little to help the situation.

I still wrote stories, and the terrible rhyming poems in iambic pentameter, but they were increasingly miserable, and certainly not for sharing. Grown-ups don’t want to hear about bullied children, being home-sick, or having adoption issues, they just want you to go out and play. Only there was no one to play with. My parents did everything they could but there was no way around it – they had a weird child who just couldn’t make friends, so I turned to music and it was better than Prozac – still is. Here was a way of expressing all that pain and teenage confusion in a beautiful way; wordless, classical structures. I was never any good, but that didn’t matter - it afforded me endless hours of locking myself away in a room with my guitar, and later, in the kitchen with the giant over-strung piano my father bought for a tenner and dragged through the city streets on a dolly – but that’s another story!

I kept on writing, in the dark, in those sacred early hours when the world sleeps, a habit I’ve not been able to break to this day. I no longer wrote fiction. I had no room for it. Escapism is not an option when you’re trying to survive. But like a crack-head I couldn’t stop. I kept a diary for 14 years only to burn them all when I was 21 because they really were very depressing! I tried working in ordinary jobs, intended to go back to college and finish my education, but life got to me first and I entered what was to be the blackest period in my life. But hey. We live and learn, and I learned a lot. I went abroad, learned a language, regained a bit of the confidence I’d lost and moved on.

I managed to kick the writing habit in 1997 when I went back to college to do the A’ levels I’d abandoned 20 years earlier. I took English and Spanish and got into University. I said I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t. I just needed an excuse to feed my book addiction and justify the time and money a degree would cost. I chose to study English Literature and Language because I couldn’t choose between them, and picked Education Studies as a minor, only there was a mix up, and I found myself signed up for Creative Writing. Generally I don’t believe in Fate. I believe in Cause and Effect, Physics, Stuff We Don’t Know About, but I have to say, the day I got the form back I was almost converted.

And it’s been the best thing that ever happened to me (besides my girls obviously). Working with wonderful people I started writing fiction again, learning about the craft. I had to show my work, which I loathed and resented at first, but I began to reap the benefits of feedback – the good and the not-so-good.

I’m still edgy about showing my work but it’s getting easier, and the blogosphere has been a constant source of encouragement. I’ve been reading them for years, but was too scared to so much as post a comment – even anonymously. I followed the progress of The Wandering Scribe and am gutted/ashamed/driven to work harder when I look today to see not only has she written her book, but it’s got a shiny cover and is available on Amazon! I practice my rusting Spanish reading La Tormenta en un Vaso (Storm in a Teacup), and find all manner of wonderful blogs out there; the witty, educated folk who share their thoughts on a daily basis and make the virtual world a brighter place.

Not that I’m one of them – but in less than a month of blogging I’ve already met some wonderful people, am more in touch with current affairs and political debate than I ever was, and even posted some stories on Urbis.

All in all, this blog thing has been delightfully fun and encouraging. I’m less and less hesitant about posting, and certainly more productive on the writing front. To the critics of the blogosphere who worry for out safety, I’d say sure, there’s probably some lunatics out there, but hey, I meet them in the real world all the time, and at least online I can close the page. No, I think I’ll stick around and see what happens!

Now, better get on with that novel…


La Gringa said...

I'm enjoying your blog so I'm glad you are enjoying blogging and will continue. I started my blog on a whim (well, it said "only 3 easy steps") and have grown to feel that I'm chatting with my friends when I write. I feel much less isolated now.

Thanks so much for the link! I hope I deserve it.

hesitant scribe said...

Hi - it's really encouraging to get positive feedback - so thank you for that! It also helps you to know if you're wasting your time, or worse still, just being a bore ha ha!

Your link is well deserved - I find it fascinating to see what you've been up to on the other side of the world, and I'm starting to feel as though I'm chatting to friends too - I've certainly started making some, which is lovely. 3 easy steps indeed! It's taken me ages to summon up the courage to start blogging, but you know, I'm really glad I did!