When I first began writing I wrote straight from the heart. I wrote about my family, the things I loved, the things I noticed and the things that made my life worth living. I suppose you could say I was writing an early version of the things people write on a blog. I was writing as practice; I was learning how to connect with the flow of words in my head and get them down on the paper.
I wanted to improve.
So I read books on how to write, I went to classes and workshops, subscribed to magazines.
Then I worried.
I worried about grammar and syntax. I worried about what my parents would think, my neighbours, old school friends – and the opinion of the entire universe. They would laugh for sure – in all the wrong places – they would point out my errors with stern expressions on their faces – I would be given homework. Oh, please, please, not homework.
So I curbed and curtailed my words.
I tried to write better, cleverer, tried to write as I thought I should write instead of how I truly wanted to write. Most of it was a waste of time. My mum knew that, she kept telling me so but I didn’t listen. I thought I had to be someone else to write. I thought I had to bend and contort to shine.
Before you waste as much time as I have let me tell you – you don’t need to do that. You have to write the very best you can but always, always be yourself when you write and this, for some, for people like me, is the most difficult thing to do.
It should be the easiest thing in the world shouldn’t it – being yourself? To simply be, to breathe, relax into who we are. If we try to present a different ‘us’ to the world then it becomes hard work. We can never be all things to all people, we can never be perfect at everything – only perfect at being our true self – because we are the only one of us there is. Unique in every way.
I spent a huge amount of time trying to let go of all the things that stopped ‘me’ writing naturally. All the rules and regulations, the guidelines, the lessons had to be set to one side for a while.
And finally, I learned that important life lesson; that it was ok to write simply and from the heart – which is exactly what I did in the first place. That there was an energy about that first writing that was not listening to the critic on my shoulder. I learned that it was ok to be me – all of me, when I wrote the first inklings of a story. Not to worry about whether I was doing it right or wrong, whether the sentences were perfect, the paragraphs pure.
I simply wrote – and I wrote simply.
Not that the classes and books etc were a waste, they weren’t at all. They taught me how to shape my work, where to sell it, how to approach agents and editors, how to be professional in my work and in my presentation. But, and it’s a big but, the most important thing I needed to remember (and not be ashamed of) was that I needed to be me. That’s what writing voice is, the essence of your true self, your humour, the things you care about, the way you see the world. And then to share those words because other people will like the way you see the world as well.
I am running a workshop in High Wycombe on 24th September with my dear friend and mentor, Margaret Graham, to raise funds for the charity Words for the Wounded. It will be energising , inspirational and it will most definitely be fun. And I promise not to make you contort yourself into strange shapes as I once did. I don’t want to waste your time.
And of course, there will be cake.
Details available at Words for the Wounded.