Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Writing (and Reading) as Therapy

For as long as I can remember writing,and reading have been a vital part of my life. One of my earliest memories is of my Dad reading my favourite book to me, sadly I can't remember the name of it but it was about a small cottage that slowly becomes surrounded by skyscrapers. (As the youngest of four much older siblings the symbolism is something for the psychiatrist's chair).  I'm sure it had a happy ending but cannot think what it might have been; presumably it was somehow lifted by a crane and transported back to the countryside. This book was repeatedly borrowed from the library, I was later told, the family finances presumably didn't run to my being bought the book. 
Then I started writing myself, poems reflecting my inner thoughts, stories about my ambitions to be an international showjumper and then later a diary. Recently the author Matt Haig has written about how writing helped to save his life ( ). For me, writing was certainly a conduit for stress, a confidante and company for a lonely child, and a means of understanding the world. Reading was at first an escape, I was a huge fan of Tolkien and Hardy, and then a way of exploring beyond the small Yorkshire town that I lived in and beyond a family life dominated by Christian ideology and the Daily Express. 
Working as a journalist I dropped any thought of writing creative fiction (despite the popular view of reporters) and then, as an at home mum, I lost confidence in my ability to write anything. This loss of self belief wasn't helped by a spell in intensive care when I tried to combine working as a deputy editor and bring up two children, one with disabilities. My need and wish to write was handicapped by a fear of what other people would think of it, concern that I would be criticised, the stifling legacy of being told not to get beyond yourself, the fear of failure. But I continued to keep a diary and this allowed me some form of expression although I only realise now that it was a lifeline, a link to words, a creative space and a key to sanity. 
I began my journey out of the doldrums of self doubt when I studied yoga and became a teacher. You couldn't be self conscious standing in front of a class demonstrating yoga postures, breathing techniques and meditation. Four years ago I came across the untold story of early aviator Elsie Mackay which led to my first book, at first self published but people liked it. For the first time in more than 20 years I allowed myself to think that maybe I could do this writing thing after all.   But it wasn't until last year that I decided to focus completely on my writing again. I joined a writers' group, BookTown Writers,  which has been hugely supportive and I'm taking my first steps into fiction, with some success. 
I now have the confidence to call myself a writer and I'm working on a non-fiction book, some children's stories and supporting other writers. I feel more comfortable in my skin than I have at any previous point in my life, the writing hat sits well and suits me. I understand that writing is for me, if other people like it that's a bonus and if they don't well, never mind. I blog, I tweet, I research and write and, of course, I still keep a diary. 

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