Joining in with Kate Motaung’s online discussion group On Being a Writer, which is based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On being a writer: 12 simple steps for a writing life that lasts. One of today’s prompts, which is based on Chapter 5 of the book, asks us to consider what writing means to us and to share a blog post about what the act of writing means to us. Here goes…
I’ve always written, right from when I was little. One of my best memories from childhood is the day we were stood, at school, in the little garden we’d planted (it couldn’t have been more than a metre long and a few centimetres wide), watering the plants (it was a lovely hot summers day). I had the watering can in my hand and, as I was watering the plants, the teacher came running over, all smiles, to tell me that my story had won the competition in the local library. Things are a bit muddled in my memory after that, but I do remember that someone’s shoes got wet because I lost control of the watering can (I remember they weren’t my shoes) and I remember, to this day, the feeling of pride that welled up inside because someone had liked my writing so much that they’d chosen it to win a prize!
I’ve written ever since then. Loved English best at school (although ended up studying science at University and beyond, for my PhD). Wrote stories all the time as a girl. Wrote letters home from University regularly: not just to family but, also, to friends, regaling them of tales in the Big Smoke. Began to write non-fiction during my studies and then that became a freelance ‘gig’.
Set up an editing business, which took over the freelance non-fiction writing. [All of this coinciding with my marriage; strange that I began to lose the ‘writer’ part of myself as I married…and then my marriage turned in to the place where I lost pretty much the whole of myself between the abuse and the isolation and, well, other ‘stuff’].
I then began to write again, during my marriage, as a way out. [Perhaps ‘a way through’ is a better, more fitting, description, because, even in the depths of despair, trapped in an abusive relationship, I never really thought of ‘out’, I always gave him the benefit of the doubt that we would find a way through. How very wrong I was].
Writing was a way of escaping my reality, a way of imagining different situations, escaping the (often-times) horror-filled days (towards the end) that would mark my passage through my life. I could fly, by writing, even when my wings were cut and I could not fly. It was a way of defying my situation, of reclaiming freedom in the face of terror. It was a way of saying ‘I am me. I am Helen and I am bigger than this’ (even when ‘out’ wasn’t possible and I was caged). [And no, that caged bird did not sing].
Then, well, fast forward a few years (because not even I want to remember all that) and I was able to get out and my writing came to be about recovery. About re-discovering myself, reclaiming all the bits and pieces of me that had been lost, dragged to different poles, stretched almost beyond recognition. Mercury sliding across vinyl, me coming together again, slowly, slowly, testing the waters, seeing how it feels, slowly recovering my senses, trust in myself, my confidence, my belief that I would, once again, be able to fly.
I write, now, in many contexts. I write on I Will Bloom, very half-heartedly. I say half-heartedly because I love my space but it is a source of frustration for me. I’d love to take I Will Bloom places, write fabulous posts that would help women to find the joy, to reclaim themselves (post-domestic abuse and otherwise), to write about entrepreneurship and single motherhood and working from home in a ‘You can do it!’ type style…[I’d love to do that]….
….but I have a deeper desire, to write books, to give talks, conferences, to women who’ve been abused and, in particular, on behalf of women who have had the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction used against them (especially in situations of domestic violence) and who are, as a result, stuck – in limbo – in a country not their own, withering their lives away whilst they wait for their children to become adults
[Yes, you may have realised…it does turn your children’s childhoods in to a double-edged sword; you don’t want to wish away a minute of it, you want them to enjoy every single minute of it, but, all the while, there’s the realisation in the back of your mind that there are many, many, many minutes until they reach 18 and you’ll be free].
So…I guess I’m speaking to the Universe now (in tears, actually)…hands up, palms open, calling all the Divine powers….”Use me, use my talents, show me where to go and what to do….”
“Knock and the door shall open” Matthew 7:7 tells me….I’ve been knocking ever so timidly and now I feel it’s about time to start banging…
I want to turn the injustices I’ve faced and turn them in to good. Beyond wanting to write to understand my own experiences, I’d like to write so that others facing similar circumstances can feel less alone.
Writing, to me, means sisterhood. Brotherhood. Unity. Realising we’re not alone. That we’re heard. That our voices are heard, even in desperate times.
Those books and characters you can identify with so strongly? Those books that arrive to you at exactly the right moment?
There’s power in words. The power to move souls and to change lives. To find the good.
That’s what I’d like to be known for, as a writer.
[And that’s the kind of blog post you write, folks, when you’ve been at the police station, in a foreign land, all day long, banging your head against a very thick brick wall….]