Author Blog Challenge #1
Describe your earliest memory of writing? How did your writing habit/process/career develop?
The long journey
My earliest memory of writing takes me back to Grade 1, making my first markings on lined paper, under the watchful eye of my teacher. A sad affair for both of us. My chubby fingers holding the crayon in a death grip, which shattered with the first stroke leaving shock waves of wax particles in its wake. I had failed my crayon licence on the first day. I was soon to realize the marks I made on paper had little relevance to the stories in my mind, knowing that unless I learnt how to match one with the other, these stories would never find the freedom I sought for them. It was a painful process for both teacher and pupil, as she laced her instructions in sarcasm reinforced with the side edge of the ruler against my knuckles and I choked on the humiliation of failure. Did I learn? You bet I did. Like house training a puppy, if you rub a child’s nose in their crap long enough they’re sure to get the message. They may hate the mistress and harbour dark thoughts of revenge, but they learn to contain the low growl and walk with pride to the poop pile in the yard. So it was with my writing, and from slow beginnings a love affair with words began, each letter building a picture of a world beyond the ordinary days of my life. Not that I ever attained the desired standard of perfect cursive script, my loops lacked uniformity and thin upward strokes cankled into an undefined thickness, evoking derision from teachers and titters from classmates.
I learnt to separate the expected from the pleasure, trying my best to conform at school while writing as I pleased everywhere else. At high school, expectations shifted from aesthetics to content, within legible reason, although correct use of grammar and punctuation often overrode creativity and individual style. I became acquainted with poets of note, from the first casual meeting to the deeper intimacy that comes with peeling back the layers to the naked form beneath and bliss was a lazy Friday afternoon listening to rhythmic rise and fall of words painted by a poet’s pen. In a quest for peer approval I became a humourist of sorts, churning out doggerel and calling it poetry and penning clichéd stories in the guise of wit and satire. Strange that, even through the mists of memory and the rose coloured glasses of older age, it is my own laughter I hear above all others. I think there’s an old proverb about he or she who laugh at their own wit, but it escapes me now. Although the years of my growing up and younger adulthood were interspersed with writing of this genre, in between no writing at all, I somehow missed the angst ridden emotive writings of adolescence, probably because I was too busy living it and adhering to the social mores of the time of not airing one’s dirty linen in public. So far I had yet to establish any firm writing habits. Starting a journal remained at the top of my New Year resolution list for many years before I ceded to procrastination and gave up the dream.
Children were born and stayed until life beckoned them into their own adult years, and a career in welfare travelled side by side with parenting. Creative writing took the form of study assignments, report and submission writing and the preparation of pre court reports designed to sell a child’s worthiness of another chance to the magistrate and their value as a family member to their parents. A tough gig. In between I wrote poems of no distinction about the ordinariness of life, with the occasional fire and brimstone blast of social justice. I began writing my life story several times because others said I should and just as quickly discarded each project to live in the moment. I once completed a couple of chapters, belted out on my old Remington, only to lose them to a friend who knew someone who knew a publisher – or something like that.
Twenty years ago I got fair dinkum about it and enrolled in a writing Diploma course. I completed the first semester and had just started the second when I began a new high pressure job, or was it my old enemy procrastination tapping me on the shoulder again that made me give it up? Back I went to writing limbo, satisfying myself once again with the creation of program documents, submissions and government papers. In my spare time, between being on call at work and the world of grandparenting, I wrote short stories and began a novel – the obligatory unfinished first novel we read about in writer’s circles – all saved neatly in files on little square discs that popped in and out of that miracle in technology and the busy writer’s boon, the computer.
A move to the country brought more writing material than I could keep up with, it also brought two teenage grandchildren to share my home and a job that had a one hour commute each way, but I was over the hump. I re-enrolled in the diploma course; time managed my multi-tasking and kicked procrastination to the rest home for bad habits while I got on with the business of being a writer. I wrote short stories and poetry, with moderate success in competitions and publication, and this time completed the diploma and the life story I’d failed to protect so many years before. I joined writing groups and initiated others, and mentored new writers in pursuit of their dream. I am a published writer, but will never be a household word. I continue to be moved by social injustice and use poetry as an expression of this. I always have a cause I am working on and another under my belt. It is what I do. At the moment my passion is to write about the pitfalls in the industry for vulnerable novice writers and the wolves in sheep’s clothing who lurk behind anonymity on swish web pages to pose as editors and appraisers – the snake oil sales people of the literary world. The ancient crest of my family bears the open book of the scribe and I am proud to continue the long tradition of wielding a pen so much mightier than a sword.
~ Merlene Fawdry
~ Merlene Fawdry