Monday, 24 June 2019

Writing Your Life

I used to run a memoir/ autobiographical writing class called 'Writing from your Life'. I loved reading the stories my students wanted to share, a 90 year-old writing for his family, a woman coping with chronic pain, a man involved with the quest to prove life on Mars to name a few. They learned to open up and share their passions through words, real bravery. 

My own poetry is rooted in my life stories; joy and pain, discovery and regret. But when my tutor asks me to focus on myself with her prompts; to examine ourselves in a mirror, to label my personality, to greet myself as a friend head on, I find it immensely difficult. I can write about aspects of my life, pick them apart, but looking at myself clearly, recognising who I have become is painful. Not even because of the pain of recent events, just that up-close scrutiny. It is easier to treat myself as a character in my poems, to allow that distance before facing difficult moments. Am I who I want to be, am I a good person, a good friend, do people want to be with me? That microscopic analysis of my personality, of my self is uncomfortable. It may only be my weary view, others will see me differently, but we never like ourselves when we examine too closely.

Not sure where I'm going with this. While I'm comfortable writing about my life, I'm not comfortable with opening my self to being explored in my writing. Cracking open a nut to find the insides too bitter. I'm trying not to shy away from the challenge these prompts are placing before me, but I can feel myself resisting. My writing is too pat, contrite lines trying to sum things up when there's no exact answer. 

It all depends on my mood, what's happening around me, a multitude of things that can tip my attitude one way or the other. Writing daily on a variety of subjects can capture this, the wildly swinging up and down of my moods, my opinion of my self.

I've been meeting online a few writers who write a daily haiku or short poem and post them as a kind of diary. My daily writing works in the same way, I guess, though I don't always share them. It's interesting to see the ebb and flow of my thoughts. This blog written over the last weeks also shows that flitting. 


I've been talking on here about struggling to find outlets and my support for my work. I find sometimes when you complain about something out-loud, verbalise the frustration or pain, the knot eases in some unexpected way. I started this blog originally to lay out some of the issues I was having with conceiving my last child, the guilt and grief, but shortly after starting, I conceived after years of trying. So the blog eventually changed to be about writing.

I thought writing here and speaking to other writers at the Lahti conference would help me in practical ways to find out about resources I was unaware of. It was kind of helpful, but the group I was pointed towards is aimed at supporting writers working in languages other than Finnish and Swedish, the two national languages of Finland, but the group is primarily focussed on languages that aren't English as they feel languages such as Arabic, Russian, Spanish, etc, have less support than English here. While again, I understand and agree to some extent, it does leave writers such as myself out of the loop. I'm going to meet up with one of the organisers after my holidays and see what they can offer or suggest. 

But after the slight disappointment of contacting this organisation, I woke to an email from Hedgehog Poetry with the results of the 'Neglected or Selected Competition' I entered. I had won, a total surprise. I don't usually enter competitions, especially ones that require a fee, but the Press has intruiged me for a while. I was hoping to join their Cult which gives members special challenges, but also allows them to enter competitions for free once I had some money, a great deal, but now it looks like my collection Totems, which is a smaller version of my huge Scottish collection, is coming out with Hedgehog Poetry in 2020. I can't wait to begin the whole process. 

So it's worth plodding on, seeking out new opportunities, pushing past your reservations and speaking out even in small ways. 

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