Friday, March 09, 2007

Insert Title Here

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.

9 comments:

Bon said...

funny - though not in a haha way - how half a world away from each other, we seem to have started school with the same teacher.

mine eventually made me so angry with those kind of displays of cheap power that i became a teacher to try to undo some of the damage...at least to myself. :) later, i decided i just didn't even want to be in the system. and like you, started writing.

but with O also so very fond of chewing on electrical cords these days, comments on blogs are about all i get done. so i stand in awe, of thou, o real writer lady.

kudos to you on the book, even if the deadline is eating your ass. and stamp all over those little seedlings of self-doubt and shame planted so long ago...you're doing this writing thing, and well. i know Tricky makes it slower to get to the end of the story...but you will, and still on your own schedule.

rage on.

heleen said...

Your problem combining freelancing and babying sounds very familiar. The baby-thing leaves me with no time and no focus and no creativity. And in stead of enjoying it when it's not busy, that's when really the stress hits hard. Hey, if you lived around the corner we could baby sit for each other while the other one could work for a few hours.

Em said...

It is so, so hard to work while attending to a baby and battling sleep deprivation. Don't beat yourself up. Take help when you can get it. Can you afford to hire a sitter for a few mornings or afternoons a week while C is gone?

Thalia said...

Yup, I had that teacher too, the first one who made me sit and watch someone else struggle to read while I was dying to know the end of the story.

Let some one else watch the baby, sweetie. That's what friends are for, you don't have to do this just you and C, particularly not when C is away.

elle said...

ACK! Your teachers! I'm so angry! I was lucky. I was an early reader too, but I got bumped to "special" classes. It's good that you acknowledge that what you are doing IS hard. Tricky is a full time job. You need sleep. Take advantage of that help - "it takes a village..."

Lut C. said...

Those teachers were awful.

In first grade I got a prize for being so good at reading. Every child got a prize of course, but those who were good at reading got a more difficult book than the others. :-)

Lin said...

I remember the fatigue and how it messes with one's head. But I somehow think that with you, Tricky is a still new and integral part of the process and once he gets his head around sleeping, will only enhance your creativity.

And, P.S., accept all offers of help and when you have your twiddling of thumbs will I ever work again times, you can help your friends.

T said...

Definitely take advantage of child care offers, sleep deprivation is the worst.

Oh, and I hate your old teacher.

Nico said...

There are some great teachers in this world, but there are also some really, really bad ones! Ugh. How to make sure our kids don't get treated like that? It's not keeping me up at nights yet, but I have a feeling it will!

I concur wholeheartedly with the others - don't be afraid or ashamed to take your friends up on babysitting offers. You do not have to be superwoman!