Mr HB and I went for a walk the other day, and for once he wanted to talk about my writing (this never happens). It turns out he wanted to check whether I still wanted to be a writer. ‘It doesn’t seem to make you happy. At all,’ he said.
I was a bit shocked! But then I remembered. His perception is based on me whining: another rejection, another novel that will have to go in a drawer because it doesn’t quite work, another opportunity that went to someone else, another year with not much or no money.
So I reminded him that I don’t do this for money (just as well!). And I told him that, contrary to appearances, I love to write. It keeps me sane. That feeling, when I get into flow and an hour goes by …
As a woman with mental health issues, and the parent of an enby kid, I’m often aware of other people’s male-cis-het-ableist privilege.
Today, however, I have the most privilege I’ve ever felt in my life.
- I am in an air bnb (financially secure enough for this, and multiple trips to Tesco for cashews and vegan chocolate)
- for two nights (not in a nine-five with four weeks of holiday a year)
- my children being looked after by their dad (co-parenting: surely the ultimate privilege?)
- writing (able to pursue this un-lucrative work for many years now)
- listening to music and podcasts (having decided I can afford Spotify: currently on free trial)
- and reading (only one was free from the library).
This is heaven.
This. An accident of birth, and race, cisgendered heterosexual marriage, and secure family that led me to this point.
My oldest drew me this picture and challenged me to write a blog to go with it. Here goes!
When I think about becoming what society calls beautiful, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about becoming what society calls financially successful, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about not ever buying anything that is remotely close to the latest fashion, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about having a fancy holiday in the sun every summer, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about other people’s religion, ritual or practices, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about how other people choose to parent, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about other people’s taste in music, I think: yeah, whatevs.
When I think about what pre-teens say about almost everything, I think: it’s usually ‘yeah, whatevs.’
For the last six weeks, I’ve been escaping from the teatime/bedtime routine and driving myself into Edinburgh.
I’ve been learning how to build a character, a setting, dialogue, and how to put these elements together into a short story, all under the magnificent captaincy of Dr Claire Askew.
But by far the best part has been meeting the rest of the group. My WLAG colleagues. Writing with them, sharing with them. We have already started championing each other’s work and projects – a meet up is planned at my next spoken word gig! I can’t wait to see what each of them go on to do next. I’m looking forward to saying ‘yes, we did Write Like a Grrrl together.’
Writers work alone. But we need that community, too. That encouragement. The busy silence of a roomful of writers, writing.
There is no future in looking sideways.
Do not pay attention when people look sideways to your path: do not start to compare yourself to others. How can you compare a palm leaf and a pine needle? And yet, both carry life, are beautiful, bring green, bring oxygen, bring peace to the forest, the desert.
We are here to do our work. Not to wonder whether we should do our work, or leave it to other people that we think are better, braver, luckier, richer.
No one else can make what we can make, not in the way that we could make it. A twig can’t be a leaf, a branch can’t be the tree’s trunk.
Your stories have value. Your creative works have substance.
You are not a good judge of the quality of your own work.
So, the submissions period for the anthology has come and gone. I only got two poems a day too late!
I’m delighted – I received over 70 poems for consideration. I have been in touch with everyone who submitted, so if you’ve not heard from me, please let me know.
It has been a real joy to read all your submissions. From funny poems to heart-breaking ones, poems that were super inventive with the theme, to poems that seem to have forgotten there was a theme in the first place! Thank you all for trusting me with your work.
Please remember if your poem wasn’t selected, it doesn’t mean anything in terms of its quality. Some amazing poems didn’t make it into the book – there just wasn’t enough space for all of them.
Whatever the outcome, you are a poet – keep writing!
I was always good at learning songs and poems off by heart. Mr HB used to refer to it as ‘my super power,’ which made me feel special and precious.
Of course I’m now in my 40s and have two children. My head is so full of dentist appointments, maths homework and what on earth are we going to have for dinner tonight that the lyrics have all fallen out of my brain (science).
What is wonderful about this is that my oldest has inherited ‘the powers.’ They are regularly asked to regale their classmates with screeds of Hamilton, the musical. On the flip side, they are horrified at the draining of my super powers. I try to sing along with Hamilton in the car, and get berated constantly. NO, MUM THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT WORD!
Aaaah, humility. Thanks kids.