I’ve joined the group Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Every first Wednesday of the month, they ask a question, that I as a writer will answer. It is a way to meet new writers, and make new connections. And as the title of the group says, to support the insecure writer. Here goes:
What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?
I struggled a lot with writing. I remember writing letters to my cousin continually as a child. We would swap our favourite books. I always swapped books with people. One day, I handed five or six of my favourite books to a young girl (who I never actually saw again), she explained to me about themes and underlining ideas in books. It was the first time anyone had spoken to me about stories in this way. My father overheard us chatting away, he said, “Elegances, will never understand the concept. She reads the books like candy, addicted to the sugar. She reads the story, she is not capable of understanding anything else.”
That was my first roadblock. My second, came years later, in secondary school with my English teacher. She made it perfectly clear every single chance she got that I was useless and too stupid for the class, she would kick me out if she had that power.
Thankfully, I went to art college. I hated writing by this point. I dreaded the essay questions, knowing that I was too stupid and worthless to answer them properly. Any one-to-one I had with my art history professors were barely controlled panic attacks. Even if they were trying to help me, I couldn’t hear them over the voices that were in my head.
Final year, the Thesis.
The first deadline came. I handed in my piece that my father had “helped” me with. My father works in an University, he teaches science. He has a higher expectation of all of his kids. I think we’ve all failed to hit his bar at some point in our life. This was another one of my turns.
I won’t go into the details but he ripped me down to my toenails. It started another of our lovely stand-offs where we didn’t speak to each other. I handed the paper in, this was the peak of my hatred of all writing.
My mentor Louise, called me in, and sat me down, to give me the dreadful news.
“Elegances the only reason you did not fail because I know you, I know there is something you are keeping hidden.”
I bawled my eyes crying. I sobbed my heart out. Another professor came into the room, saw me, and did that awkward man thing, where he backed slowly out of the room. I told her I couldn’t do it. She asked who helped me with it, I told her.
“Elegances, from now on you do not show any other writings to your father. Art is completely different to science. He cannot understand it. He cannot help.”
She then gave me some homework, to find a piece of art I liked, and one I didn’t like. To explain my reasons why.
I wrote and rewrote. I researched how to criticize a piece of art. I followed the instructions. Until finally, I had the homework finished. Once again, I was absolutely terrified to hand it up. I had immense fun telling my father to politely fuck off. I handed the piece over to Louise.
“You write well. I can hear your voice coming through.”
She pushed the door open for me, she showed me the world behind it. All I had to do was walk forwards. I can no longer see that door, it’s too far behind me. She is still there smiling at me, encouraging me, guarding the door from the critiques of my father.
My writing will never be Shakespeare’s, it will never be Brontë, it will never be Yeats or Heaney, or even Pratchett. My writing is mine. It’s my voice. It will improve. It will take people away from their world and enter my world. Even if they are only in it for the story.
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