Sometimes, when I open a new blog post, I know exactly what I want to write about. I plug in the title and I start chipping away at what’s flowing through my brain, trying to get out…
Other times, I just want to write, but have no idea what I want to say… I’ve always written… whether stories, journals, poems or lyrics; I’ve always written. It’s a comfort in dark times, a centering exercise in confusing or transitional times and a celebration in the good times.
When I was young, I used to create elaborate ‘novels’ and ambitious short stories to create the world that I wanted to live in… Reading about it in books wasn’t enough; that was someone else’s idea of the ideal. I wanted my own. Adventures, unbelievable events (literally; Completely absurd and unbelievable ideas, relationships and events), and unlikely relationships weaved clumsily by an albeit talented 10 year old, into vaguely organised and sometimes finished stories.
Some of them were submitted as school projects; others were submitted to broader writing competitions, some were just left in note books and forgotten about.
I remember finishing primary school and writing a ‘novel’ about a Haunted Norfolk Island Pine Tree over the Christmas break. I’d never been to Norfolk Island, but I had a tshirt that said I had…
I worked long and hard on that story. It was one of the first that I’d actually mapped out character relationships, potential plot holes to fill and had an idea of the desired outcome of the story…
When I started highschool, my 7th grade teacher set a creative writing task where we had to submit a story that was NO LESS THAN five pages. No LESS than.
“GREAT!”, thought 12 year old me, “I can just submit the Haunted Norfolk Island Pine Tree story!! It’s about twenty pages now, and I’m just fixing it up. Brilliant plan, Cherie!”
I submitted my story, grinning for ear to ear, probably feeling a little proud of myself that I’d completed such an epic fictional adventure and someone else was going to read it… Someone that wasn’t me.
Isn’t it funny, the moments that stay with us… “Can you pinpoint the moment you decided to become a counsellor?” Nope. That whole thing has been a journey. “When did you realise your partner was the one?” Umm, dunno. There wasn’t an earth shattering realisation… It’s just become slowly more obvious.
But “Can you remember the moment you first had your dreams profoundly shattered?” You bet I can. I can still remember the physical sensation of having all the fire inside me extinguished by a cold bucket of doubt-water. And, as I write this, my gut sinks, my heart is heavy and my inner child is forlorn.
I wanted to be an author. I wanted to write every day. I wanted to share stories, tell stories to the world! In year 7 I was ecstatic to learn that my school offered Latin as a language so I could learn more about the origins of words, expand my vocabulary and better serve my chosen profession.
… The printed and bound version of my story was in my hands. It had cover art, a title page, and all my hopes and dreams resting upon it. This was high school. High school had the answers. High school was the real world. Marks in highschool mattered.
I handed it to my teacher excitedly and awaited his reaction.
“What on earth is THIS?!” He exclaimed, flipping through the multiple pages and staring at me in disbelief.
“It’s my story! It’s umm, twenty four pages”
“I said no less than FIVE pages though!” Looking at me like I had just handed him a maths assignment in an English class.
I faltered. This wasn’t going according to plan… He wasn’t as excited as I was… I felt like I was getting in trouble. His tone was agitated, his expression almost pained.
“I… Bu… It IS no less than five pages though… You didn’t specify a maximum number of pages…”
My teacher stared at me in disbelief. I had him there… It was no less than five pages…
The next words that passed his lips were like a wrecking ball.
“Well if this is crap, I’m not reading it. I’m throwing it in the bin and you won’t get a mark for it.” And dismissed me.
I don’t remember anything else from that day. I mean, not that I remember many daily events 19 years ago, but that day was important… and the rest of it was completely numb and black…
What had I done? I might miss out on a mark because if my teacher didn’t like my story he wouldn’t read it? Also, in the BIN?! That was my only bound copy! I wanted it back! Could he even DO that? Throw an assignment in the bin?
So that was it. My efforts weren’t appreciated, I’d never make it as a writer, my story was terrible (he hadn’t read it at this point, no one had) and my life was over.
I didn’t write another story after that.
I just read other people’s.
I haven’t written a story in 19 years.
The girl who wanted to be an author. No stories. 19 years.
Isn’t it interesting, the comments we take on board, the words that stay with us, the profound impact someone else’s passing comments can have on our lives.
How different would our lives be if this didn’t happen? We’d miss those soul-shattering, gut-wrenching dream-crushers. Those “I can’t do this anymore, my heart’s not in it” relationship enders; those “You’re a freak and no-one likes you, freak” fear-validating schoolyard taunts… Our inner critic would have no external fuel to add to its fire…
But we might also miss those ones that impact on our lives in a positive way. Things like “I listen to your song when I’m sad and I feel less alone” or “that mantra you told me was the only reason I could get out of bed this morning” and “I’m lucky to have you in my life”.
I got 20/20 for that story. Full marks.
But by that time, it didn’t matter, the damage was done, the seed of doubt was planted and the fear of failure had grown like Jack’s beanstalk to the giants of doubt in the sky.
I’ve struggled with self doubt for most of my life… But that singular comment in 7th grade was the start of an incredibly tumultuous relationship between my self-love and self-doubt.
I might have been a completely different person now if perhaps a) that comment hadn’t been made, b) I hadn’t taken it to heart, or c) I’d taken the 100% score as enough validation to repair the damage of the nastiness…
But the comment was made, i did take it to heart and the mark meant nothing to me.
What I can take from this experience now is that we’re all shaped by our environment. The nature/nurture debate can go on forever, but the reality is that we’re all affected by both. We’re born with certain traits and attributes that mean the people, experiences and environments that we’re exposed to throughout our lives are met with different responses, different emotions and different life skills. And that, in my opinion, is what makes the world interesting!
Starting this blog was the first step in challenging myself to write again… Sure, I’ve spent years writing songs and poems and I continued to pursue creative writing throughout high school… but I never believed in any of it. I never believed the marks I got were valid or justified. I never believed anyone’s positive feedback…
Putting my words out there for people to read has been a little scary… Opening myself up to judgement again and, for the most part, not getting any feedback to know if I’m connecting with anyone or making any difference is confronting, and I’m thankful to my little blog Angel who gives me feedback when she can…
But that’s part of the journey… and that’s why I started this blog. To celebrate the journey. To realise that every profound, life-changing comment has helped to shape me into the person I am today, and every profound comment to come will continue to help shape me. And that’s a good thing! I want to change. I want to grow! I want to have feedback. The challenge is (and I’m starting to get the hang of it), not being shattered by the comments, but instead observing them, judgement-free as they wander into my life. Then work out what to do with them to best serve my personal growth and my aim to enrich other people’s lives…