I realised years ago that I wanted to write. My first attempts at short stories ran to three handwritten pages or so, and I would make my sister sit and listen, along with an audience of soft toys and dolls. She got quite bored with my tales of princesses lost in woods and toys that would come alive at night when their owners were fast asleep.
I moved on to bigger projects when I was about nine or so. I announced that I was writing a play entitled “The Little Bull” and would be happy to let my parents read it when it was finished, which I confidently announced would be in a week or so.
A few weeks later, after losing my way with the plot, I threw away all the pages I had written and started again. The play would still be about the little bull, an antique milk jug spotted in the window of a little shop in town, but this time I had a definite idea how the play would end. I made the mistake of mentioning the play to my teacher who got very excited and asked me every day how things were going, until I handed in the finished pages.
I must be honest here and say that I did expect some modest praise for my efforts. My parents told me how good they though the play was and thought perhaps the school may want to put in on at the end of term. My teacher had other ideas.
She gave me what I am sure she thought was a fair critique of my play; at nine years old you are not ready for talks about directions, or voice, or sense of place or even a timeline. She lost me.
I didn’t attempt to write anything for a long time. Then in the last year in high school, the English teacher mentioned a short story competition and urged as many of us as possible to ‘give it a go’. I wrote furiously about a girl who finds some letters written to her grandmother years before she was married, obviously from a lover.
It was all going beautifully, until the boy from the local bank asked me out on a date. I had fantasised over him for months …
Over the next few years, I married (not the banker) – moved to Scotland – moved back – had a child– got divorced and wrote nothing. Years rolled by and still I wrote nothing, although I was sure that I could write something. Sometime. Perhaps.
I read everything I could find about writing and successful writers; about skill with words and plot, about voice, a sense of place and dedication to their craft. I joined a creative writing class a few years ago, with eight other women and two men. Towards the end of the first term, Arthur who wanted to write a book about fishing, disappeared. He never returned to the class. Tristan our tutor, ‘who had been published’, tried in vain to find out what had happened to him. Tony, now the only male in our class, decided to put this strange happening to good use and wrote a short story about ‘The Disappearance of Arthur.’ It did nothing to shed any light in Arthur’s disappearance.
I stayed the course and received my fair share of honest criticism and some praise too I might add, but found the experience stifling. Although I enjoyed our discussions about Hemingway, Carter, Chekov et al, and no doubt gained a lot more than I thought I had, when the class decided to move on to studying poetry the following year I decided not to join them. I made some good friends and we keep in touch. None of them has as yet finished the novel they began in the classroom, but they are all convinced that they will finish them one day. And I wish them well.
Since starting my blog I have met lots of good writers. I look forward to reading their posts and stories. I’ve found that a lot are waiting for that phone call or email from an agent telling them The Good News, whilst others are happy just to write when they can and entertain the people who follow them.
I find that life has a habit of interfering with my writing, perhaps that’s as it should be; perhaps all other writers and bloggers experience the same thing and I am not just as organised as they. I would like to write more and do find it frustrating when I can’t. I read most all of the Daily Post hints and tips on blogging, feeling that I am missing that vital key to unlock the blogosphere.
Perhaps I am thinking too much about the why and should just get on and write. Perhaps as Hemingway put it:
‘We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.’
ERNEST HEMINGWAY, New York Journal-American, Jul. 11, 1961
Rewritten for Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections.