I wanted to be a writer from as far back as I can remember. I filled notebooks with prayers to God before turning to short stories at age ten and journals at sixteen. As a five year old I loved creative writing class on Monday mornings because we had to write what we’d done over the weekend. Most of it was made up of course. The reality was that my childhood home was pretty dysfunctional with secrets and violence.
Writing saved me. I have absolutely no doubt about it. I escaped into my own world where I was best friends with my favourite TV actors and used to meet them every day at made-up studios for lunch. As I grew, I wrote about abandoned animals finding loving homes, family dramas, and teenage romances. I wrote huge amounts of fan fiction based on my favourite shows, believing I was the characters. Years down the line when I considered that the characters I had created didn’t really exist, it was a visceral shock to my system, because they were so real in my head.
Then I went to university to study English and undertook a creative writing module as part of that. It wasn’t the first time my writing had been criticised of course; I had my share of constructive comments at secondary school. But this was on a whole new level. The tutors didn’t like my work. Worse, I was surrounded by people who were very clearly a lot more talented than I am. This destroyed my sense of who I was. You see, writing was my very heart and soul. It was the only real friend I had. I lived and breathed it. To have it torn apart by people who had no clue was like having my insides ripped out very slowly over time. I was struggling to come to terms with a painful past but this time I no longer had the writing I loved. I was on my own.
I gave it all up. Things changed when I started seeing a therapist to cope with my young autistic son and she commented on something I’d written about my childhood many years previously. She said ‘you write very well.’ I was stunned. I told her that I no longer believed that. I said I couldn’t bear to even hear it because it wasn’t true. She said ‘of course it is.’ Bit by bit, I began to tell her how studying a creative writing module had broken my heart. Telling my story, this time out loud, once again helped me to heal.
Tentatively I started to write again. Not as much as I did before as I no longer had the physical or mental strength, but once again it became an outlet for my feelings. I wrote a couple of stories about my son. Then I began journaling as an outlet. I no longer cared what others thought. Over time I began to reclaim the natural joy and creativity I’d had as a child. This led me to start blogging to share my thoughts and experiences with the world.
I no longer hold tightly onto the identity of ‘writer’ but I write. It is what heals the soul. My five year old self knew that all along.