The Scottish writer and poet Kirsty Grant, on her blog http://www.kirstywirsty.wordpress.com recently posted ‘The reason why I blog‘. I always find it interesting, instructive and encouraging to read the thoughts of other writers. Why they write. For what it’s worth here are my thoughts.
My urge to write is in my blood. My great-grandmother Elsie Walter, born, like me, in Edinburgh, wrote stories that were published in the People’s Friend and various church magazines. She had a book of short stories published that was read as far afield as Norway and USA. Her son, my maternal grandfather, who died in the First Word War was a poet.
In 1959, aged 9 years, I showed a glimmer of promise that the continuation of the family literary tradition was in safe hands. As a pupil at Lasswade Primary School I won a composition competition run by Cadburys. The prize, a certificate and a silver foil wrapped chocolate egg. There followed a 51 year hiatus in my writing career until my daughter, Laura, asked me to contribute stories to her blog http://www.arewenearlythereyetmummy.com . The stories were humorous memoirs, about her early years in Leeds and my childhood in Bonnyrigg, then a small industrial town in Scotland. My memoirs proved popular with her followers and I was encouraged launched my own grandparent blog http://www.lifeaccordingtogramps.co.uk . The content of this blog was still mainly childhood memoirs but also included stories about events in my adult life.
I can understand writing, for some, can be a private activity, a form of therapy; setting out your inner thoughts on paper can bring peace, a sort of self analysis. All that applies to me too. But, I wanted people to read my work. So, I found historical and community groups connected with my childhood home town of Bonnyrigg and village of Lasswade in Scotland on the Internet and posted my work on their sites. This attracted visitors to my blog; old school friends, contemporary pupils and people interested in the history of their community.
I was astonished one day when I received a comment from a woman Janice Kos living in Andover in Massachusetts who recognised the name Tooter Ritchie, one of the characters in a memoir about a failed attempt to introduce the game of cricket at Lasswade High School. Then, a girl I went to school with, commented to corrected some detail of a story about a teacher’s misguided showing of a film about a leper colony to our class of 8 years olds. This classmate, Margaret Sørhagen nee Duncan now lives in Norway. So, thanks to the power of the Internet, like my great-grandmother Elsie, l have readers in USA and Norway!
Last year, I decided to expand my writing skills beyond my comfort zone of memoirs. I joined a writing group run by the Workers Educational Association. It is called Adventures in Creative Writing and the tutor is James Nash a poet and writer. Under his guidance and encouragement I have tackled a wide range of genres: poems, blank verse and sonnets, flash fiction and short fiction. I have also realised the importance of editing and discovered, after some apprehension, the satisfaction of reading my work to the group. In fact I find reading out loud, to my family or even to an empty room is a good way to test a piece of writing. If it sounds good it usually is! I have no other way of knowing; I left school with a very basic technical understanding of English: nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives are the extent of my knowledge. I was an interior designer for 35 years and I have the sense that there is architectural process in the writing of stories or poems: foundations, shape, structure,style. A word, carefully placed, adding strength to a sentence, a sentence reinforcing a paragraph and so on.
I’m 65 years old, but in denial about my age. The late David Bowie described the oddity creating from the perspective of an old person with the mind of a twenty year old. I like that! I regret not developing my writing skills much earlier in my life. But my hand writing was poor and my education sketchy, due to an intermittent hearing problem as a child. The handwriting is no longer a handicap thanks to the development of word processing and my iPad is my best friend. I’m hoping that I will manage a novel this side of the grave.