I was 10 when I picked up a plain red exercise book, a pen and my small dim light and wrote the words “I hate being tall” – it became the title of a journal entry that went on for three pages. 20 minutes later and four full pages (both sides of course) I felt much better. I had taken what I was thinking and feeling and put it down on paper. There was a sense of release or relief. Perhaps both. That was 1976 and I had entered a brave new world of journal writing, which at the time I called a diary, a place where no one could enter without my permission and I was free to write and express whatever I wanted to about whoever I chose.
My journals were a very different world to my actual world where I was afraid of authority, afraid to rock the boat or stir up any kind of water. I did as I was told without question and I kept the peace. I was compliant to the end degree. I made the mistake of taking my journal into school one day and showing my best friend. “You’re not supposed to do it that way” she said and during our brief recess she began to lecture me about how writing in a diary is done. It turns out that mine was too messy and needed to be neater. From that moment onwards came my belief that there was a right and wrong way to express myself. I wrote out everything “in rough” and once I was sure it was good enough I wrote it out in my journal. A few months later and all the fun seemed to have gone out of it so I returned to reading books. In the silent world of book reading at least I couldn’t do that wrong… could I?
I never knew what happened to that journal. Probably got thrown out along with my old school books at the end of the school year and the start of the summer vacation. It was three years before I thought about journaling again, I was loving my English classes and my English teacher. I can’t remember what the exact lesson was about but I left there with a firm mind. I wanted to be a writer. Once the initial euphoria had worn off my inner critic took over. It reminded me I am”not good at anything” and I believed it. The conversation made sure I never tried being a writer in case I got that wrong.
Twenty years later I studied Advanced (A) Level English (years after leaving school) and I wrote a story. My tutor thought it was brilliant. He told me I should be a writer. That I should send it off to get it published. I was so very excited. I joined a writers correspondence course. It was distance learning because it was 1999 and I was the mother of a new baby plus two other children. I sent off my story. It came back full of red ink with words that told me it was not good enough and words that I decided meant I was not good enough. I put my pen down.
It took another 13 years for me to finally scream at myself and say IF NOT NOW… WHEN???
By now I had a healthy regard for my skills and abilities. By now I was confident about my writing capabilities and although I still relied on the approval of my readers I was less inclined to give it all up because one person said it was “wrong”. I am, at heart, a sensitive soul and I am not sure how that fits in with being a writer.
November 2012. Age 46. I rang my mum and said “Mum. I am going to tell you something and when I have told you I just want you to say okay. Okay?” I told my mum (my children and my best friend) that I wanted to be a published writer. I wanted to spend my time learning how to write short stories and poems. I had already written loads of them and my new path is to see if this writing thing can really work for me. I waited. “Okay dear” she said.
My book on rebuilding self-confidence to pursue your passion is complete. What came out of writing it is a healthy regard for writing a journal. It was a bit of a revelation but I had relied heavily on journaling to keep me sane in the most difficult of times and it had seen me through. I had found a new passion in something that had always been there. Is being a ‘journal evangelist’ and spreading the Word about the wonderful craft of journal writing in my future? Only time will tell.
I want to make sure I always color outside of the lines (or color outside of the box) 🙂