I’ve been writing since I was a child. I have the excruciating teenage diary to prove it (apparently started when I was 11). It wasn’t designed for public consumption of course. Well maybe on the first few pages I was copying The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole or one of the other much loved fictional diaries I read. But it quickly descended into the unadulterated rantings of a high school loner. I’ve made my peace with that now. It was simply me trying to make sense of the world.
The thing is though, that’s what my favourite writers today do. They write to make sense of things for themselves and in doing so entertain, inform or make others feel less alone.
Examples of my early writing live on in my parents’ loft. They show I had strong views on Noel’s House Party and job centres when I was growing up. I had opinions and wasn’t afraid to record them. When I tell yet another ridiculous story of how life has thrown me off balance, my Dad will tell me ‘You should write it. Write it down.’
I wanted to write as a career and perhaps that was my goal when I opted to study English at A-levels and University. But at the same time, expressing myself was becoming more awkward. I was very shy. Why would anyone want to hear my voice? Surely it was better to stay quiet and safe? No one could disagree if I never said anything. Now I can see that there were issues of gender, class and social mobility at play. I was intimidated by people with posher accents and classical education. If I spoke or wrote, they would know I wasn’t one of them.
Where I grew up I did not see anyone making a career out of creativity. I remember trying to research career paths as an editorial assistant but at the time the London media world seemed to be another universe. I applied for a few internships to no avail. I didn’t know anyone to ask. So I took a different career path and made my own way.
Writing never really went away though. I wrote private letters, diaries during particularly emotional times, and random opinion pieces on any devices I owned. When I can’t sleep, I write. In recent years I’ve paid more attention to what I do when no one is paying me or asking me to do it. When there is no obligation or sense of duty. When it doesn’t necessary please anyone, except me. And there it is.
I don’t know whether I want writing to be my job now. Sometimes it’s better to keep something you do for yourself separate. But I am more willing for my voice to be heard. There are so many women sharing stories and that’s a wonderful, important thing. Because so much of what we see and experience has gone unrecorded in history. Women just haven’t had the spotlight very often. That is all changing. It is scary and I haven’t developed the thick skin that I probably need. But this little corner is mine.