When did I first want to write?
I wondered about this hazily, at some ungodly not meant to be up hour of the…morning? Night? Fuck knows. For some reason all that great sleep training I did weeks ago has gone to pot. Something about all that physical and mental development in that teeny little body is affecting his sleep.
I was one of those kids who could read before they started school and, due to the wisdom of the education system, I was hence also one of those kids forced to sit quietly next to the non-reading kid beside me as they struggled through the individual letters that made up the enthralling tales of Dick and Jane and Baby Sue. I distinctly remember getting into trouble for trying to pry open the pages and see what happened next.
A couple of years later, different school, I was told that I was a “pest” because I finished my books quicker than any other kid and the teacher had to keep going back to the reading room to get me new books.
That was probably the same year that I got into trouble for trying to “running write”. We were all about printing our letters and I tried to write my name the same way I had seen my mum write, all curly and joined up. For some reason my attempt seemed to infuriate the teacher.
“Look!” she shouted as she flounced up to the blackboard. “Can you write this?” And in a horribly symbolic moment she wrote MY NAME in huge letters on the blackboard in cursive script. I stared, speechless, horrified and guilt stricken for being so terribly naughty that my name was being written on the board. “Can you write this? No, you can’t. YOU CAN’T. So stop wasting everyone’s time and PRINT PROPERLY.”
When I replay this moment in my head, sitting behind the seven year old version of myself, I shudder and then I get up and grab hold of that teacher and rip off her head. It makes me so fucking angry because I know how hard, how difficult is to write, and moments like that scar a kid, they don’t just perpetuate a lack of confidence or self esteem they actually kick start them into being. They are the poisonous seeds of self doubt.
At the age of thirty eight those seeds have well and truly born fruit.
As I type this, Tricky has just fallen asleep for the night which means I stop mothering for a short time and start writing. And it’s hard. I’m fighting for time here, to write and think and imagine, and that’s on top of all the regular stupid fears. It’s not his fault obviously. He’s not the teacher who told me I couldn’t write my own name, he’s not that first teacher who punished me from trying to read to the end of the book. He’s my bouncing, currant bun headed, creepy crawling, trying to suck on electrical cords, baby.
And man, he makes the writing hard.
This is a hell deadline month for me. Every Monday from now till April I have a deadline – title for book, then first draft of a new website on playwriting for young people, then final draft of book and then final draft of website. At the end of this month I have a new ten minute play on at a local theatre and mid month I start work on a new play with young people in Newcastle. And amidst all this, C is going to be away again for work.
Friends offer to take the baby but I feel guilty for being freelance and then taking on too much. Except that’s the point with freelance, you sometimes have heaps on and then you go for ages twiddling your thumbs and redoing your cv and writing yet another fucking play (and this is a whole other post, my building rage for the theatre industry and its attendant gatekeepers)…
The answer to that first question is that I can’t remember the time when I decided I wanted to write.
I just know that there’s never been a time when I haven’t.