As I sit here, at my desk in my little country cottage in Suffolk, I am thinking about how to convey a self-profile of me as a writer, to my course tutor; someone I have never met and know almost nothing about. I am studying for a Diploma in Creative Writing. What would make her feel connected to my writing, I wonder? Beside me, curled up on the floor, one of my two dogs is gently snoring; his little brown, furry body looking very much like a snoozing teddy-bear as the sound of my typing pervades the quiet, haziness of this sunny day. Thoughts come flooding to mind of my love of stories. For me, the earliest connection to writing most definitely started by first hearing the wonderful tales and poems that my parents would take turns to read to me as I was tucked into bed, my night light switched on until I fell into a contended sleep.
They would show me beautiful books with vivid pictures of people, animals, landscapes and also the fantastical imagined beings, creatures and magical places conjured up in the mind of many a writer. I would sit in awe and in desperation to find out ‘what happened next’. My mum would sometimes tell me a story without a book; straight from her own imagination. This word of mouth imparting of staggering tales of adventure and wonder encouraged me to also dabble with inventing characters, places, creatures, situations and worlds in which wondrous things would happen. I would often share those tales with my friends and we would be gone; off into a world that only came into being through words and just a little bit of the mystical spark of dreams.
In primary school, and at home of course, I was hugely encouraged to learn to write first letters, then words, sentences, then paragraphs and suddenly I was somehow free; liberated to write as much as I wanted, linking words, sentences and paragraphs together to reflect what was in my mind. As school progressed over years there would be a constant flow of ideas, concepts, fantasies, imagination or the depiction of actual events. Of course, evidence of my learning in any subject would all have to be recorded on paper; taking from what was in my mind, down through my arm, through my hand, out into my pen and then onto paper. I felt the buzz of wanting my reader to like, even to enjoy, what I had written; whether that be in creative writing or, in fact, in any of my subjects. It all mattered.
There is Always One Special Teacher.
One particular school teacher, who stands out as an extraordinary inspiration to me pursuing writing throughout my life, was Mrs. MacNeal. My goodness, what an outstanding teacher and exceptionally inspiring woman she was. In her late forties and having just lost her son to a terrible motor-cycle accident, I recall how she invested so much time into us children. I believe we became a great outlet for her needs as a parent who desperately wanted her son, her boy, back. Here she is:
Through her nurturing and her care; teaching us the wonders of the English language and into sharing the joy of books. Towards the end of each day, with expectant eagerness, we children would gather round her and listen as she read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the poetry of Kipling and the adventures within the magical world of Narnia; penned by the breath-taking mind of C. S. Lewis. In fact, while she had copies of the other books in the Narnia series, Mrs. MacNeal didn’t have a copy of C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, so she told us the story from memory. In the most captivating way, she recounted every last detail of the fantastical adventures of the four children who wandered into the magical, wintery land of Narnia through the back of an old wooden wardrobe, in a grand country house. We children were completely mesmerised. It was from that exact point that I decided that I needed to write. To imagine that someone might one day be able to share a story I had written, with as much love and captivation, and to hope that others might one day be swept up in a story I might create, triggered a feeling in me that has never left me.
My Surreal Upbringing.
As I developed into teenage years and early adulthood, this sense that writing mattered never left me. I would continue to write as avidly as I continued to read. Something else that reinforced my love of writing was that my father worked in the world of film and television. He was a Stunt Man, Stunt Choreographer, Stunt Special Effects Chorographer and an occasional Actor. He worked on almost 700 productions in his life and made it into some of our best-known television shows and hit international ‘blockbuster’ movies. He also worked in theatre and on radio, behind the scenes. Throughout my childhood and into my late teens, I was exposed to his highly creative and fascinating world. I would sit in the imposing studios and watch television shows and amazing films being made. I would get to pre-read scripts and watch teams of writers negotiate (which may be too polite a word for what really happened!) changes and twists in the direction of a screenplay and I would see how ideas, turned into the written word, would become the stunning production on small or big screen or as a production played out over radio waves; cascading down to homes across the nation. What an education that was and what a surreal, though large, part of an otherwise ordinary childhood! Ever since, I retained a desire to ‘one day’ write something; a novel or something that might be good enough to be the material for a radio play or television programme.
It is certainly the case that my joy comes less from the finished article but more from the process of writing, itself. I sit at my computer and often I have absolutely no idea what will flow and then I simply start. I am taken on a journey of discovery; for I am ‘hooked’ and I want to know where my words will take me. I like to hope that, one day, a reader of something I might be lucky enough to publish would also be ‘hooked’ and would share that same desire to know ‘where is this going’? Of course, writing can seem, to me at least, rather self-indulgent; after all, this is a place where I display my own imagination, my knowledge or my life-experiences. For me, my love of writing is about seeing writing as a craft. I love the idea of having the ability to hold the interest of a reader by conveying something they may relate to, dream of or are curious about. I see it as a form of connecting with people and, as I am also a Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor, connecting with humanity and exploring the human condition is exactly what my entire professional life is all about. Above all, being a writer is about something that feels like a need or even a compulsion; it is simply within me to write.
It is fair to say that I would like a career as a writer. I have not truly known how to go about making that happen, which is why I have decided to undertake a Diploma in Creative Writing. I am hoping that the course will give me a sense of where to take my writing, in order to start ‘getting it out there’ but, fundamentally, I want to feel that I am a good writer and so I hope that my course will enhance existing skills, help me to develop new skills in a variety of genres and gain a sense of my ability. Perhaps that is a little bit about self-confidence as a writer, too. I believe short stories, novels and radio plays are high on my agenda.
Testing the Water.
Currently, the way that I am starting to push myself into sharing my writing with the General Public is through this Blog. Here, I write articles on matters relating to my professional field of Counselling, Psychotherapy and Clinical Supervision. I have started to publish my poetry (something I would like to learn more technical skills at writing) and I write articles that are both in the style of a memoir and a journal. In a short space of time, as at the date of this Blog entry, I have achieved a regular following of over 1,200 people from all over the world and my Blog has been visited over 12,800 times. I thoroughly enjoy writing for my Blog and interacting with those of my readers who sometimes like to comment about what I have written; offering me insight and ongoing learning as I soak up their kind feedback.
When and Where.
I write something each day. My desk is situated in our comfortable guest room, next to a medium height standard lamp and with a small, softly lit desk-top lamp next to my computer; between which is often either a cup of coffee or an evening glass of red wine. The guest room overlooks our garden and the neighbouring fields, with another, smaller window looking back into the little woodland behind our cottage. The atmosphere is tranquil, apart from late at night when the air is filled with the many screeching and hooting sounds of local owls and an occasional nightingale will sing its beautiful song from within the tree-tops. Here is where I write; beneath the clear, and vivid with stars, Suffolk sky.
I write on and off through each day; taking numerous breaks due to my health condition. I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease in June this year but have long been accustomed to pacing myself in order to not antagonise any symptoms. My illness is largely invisible, at this stage. If you met me in person, you would not immediately know I have Parkinson’s and it doesn’t prevent me continuing to work as a Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor, although I work fewer hours these days.
Colouring the Landscape.
I believe that writing something each day is important. No matter what it is, I simply practice. Sometimes these pieces are retained as idea prompts or drafts for later use. I carry a small book with me in which I jot down observations from real life; character traits of people, events or situations happening around me, something that has stimulated one of my five senses, things people say in the street or in a shop or cafe etc. I then use these to colour my writing; enriching the written landscape of people, places and material through my observations of the world I experience. This adds to the quality of detail and the visualisation that a reader may experience which, hopefully, makes what is written become something a person can believe in and feel witness to, or in some way part of.