“I can’t write poetry”, is a default phrase I automatically use when it comes to writing poetry. It is an idea that I have carried around with me since childhood. Perhaps it’s because I often didn’t understand poetry when I was at school. Whilst my peers would decipher the lines of rhyme and obscure metaphors with ease, I struggled. So, throughout my schooling, I developed a prejudice about poetry and the idea that I just wasn’t any good at it.
Isn’t it funny how we carry these ideas around in our adulthood based on decisions we made as children? Whether it be art, writing or sport, these ideas we have become enmeshed in our psyche and become part of our belief system.
It is only in the last few years that I have become aware of how untrue this idea of mine is. I can write poetry and have done so on several occasions for events and festivals. I even wrote a poem for a eulogy, in remembrance of my cat. Yet, that old recording from childhood still plays its outdated tune and I still become nervous when I have a poem to write.
It would be so easy to stick to what I know, what I feel secure in when it comes to my writing, which is currently non-fiction writing. Yet, I suspect I would be the poorer for it. And, I am also discovering that what I interpret as nerves, is also excitement! I can feel it in the pit of my stomach now, fluttering in anticipation of trying something new.
If, like me, you have an idea about your ability to write, then perhaps it might be due to a childhood belief? For example, you might believe that you aren’t good at telling stories? Yet, if you give yourself the opportunity to come at your writing newly, you might be surprised by what you create.
Developing versatility as a writer is exciting – like a grand adventure where we can experiment, play, explore and have fun as we discover greater depths to ourselves as writers.
I am currently planning to write a radio script. I have never written one before so I am doing my research by reading about radio script writing and listening to radio dramas. I never imagine I would ever write a radio script, but now I have allowed my creative process its freedom, I have discovered a newfound freedom that comes with experimenting.
I feel rejuvenated, excited to explore the possibilities of my writing, of the stories I would like to tell and the genres I would like to play with.
It is so easy to write yourself into a corner, particularly if you become successful at writing in a particular genre, but it doesn’t have to be the only avenue you take. There are so many different roads to travel. And as Robert Frost discovered in his poem, The Road NotTaken, the road ‘less travelled by’ is full of hidden treasure and makes ‘all the difference’.
I thought this only happened to stage actors. I remember a very, very long time ago, at the tender age of seventeen, myself and my best friend auditioned for a TV programme which was the X-Factor of the day, called, Opportunity Knocks. I recall that as I stepped out onto stage with the lights blazing in my eyes, my legs felt like jelly and my mouth like the Sahara. The first line of Montego Bay came out as a whisper, then a wail, then a screech that deafened me, let alone anyone else! Not surprisingly, we didn’t make it through to the next round and I vowed that I would never put myself in that position again.
So, roll on three or so decades later with my second book, The Little Book of Animal Wisdom, and that same feeling of wobbly legs, dry throat and a nervous fluttering in my stomach rises from the ashes. And accompanying these physical sensations is the voice in my head that urges me to run and hide, full of fearful questions: what if people hate it? What makes me think I can write? Even worse, what if people laugh at me? It seems that stage fright isn’t just the province of actors, but also of writers too.
The writing process and finishing your book is an exhilarating feeling – euphoric even. It’s like you’ve given birth. And in a way you have; you’ve nurtured this book inside of you and watched it grow. Now that it is birthed, the next stage is to share it with the world. Daunting to say the least – exciting too.
You are putting your book on the Centrestage for all the world to see, so it is natural that you would feel nervous. As writers, we do care very much about how our work is received. And it does bring up all those self-doubts, limiting beliefs and thoughts we have about our writing and ourselves. But there is also a sense of anticipation as we unveil our art for all to see. Far from being reclusive, we writers are real exhibitionists in our own way – and we love recognition!
Sharing your book with the world is a bit like watching your baby take their first steps – you’re excited by this next stage in their journey and, also, fearful that they might get hurt. And this cocktail of fear and excitement is a completely natural and vulnerable state of being. I believe it is part of the job description of being a creative artist.
I remember that at my book launch, I was excited about sharing my book, but also fearful. I was so worried that people wouldn’t like it. But, with a deep breath, I let it go, trusting that what I had written was perfect because I couldn’t have written it in any other way than I did.
You can buy a copy of The Little Book of Animal Wisdom from Amazon. 10% of each book sale is being donated to Oak and Burrows Wildlife Rescue Centre.