It’s hard to believe that my blog is coming up to its third birthday soon, and what amazes me even more is the audience it attracts. I am still astounded that people come to read my blog, whether it’s my random ramblings or simple television obsessions; thank you. I will admit 2014 has been terrible blog wise, I mean I could argue I’ve been busy but I’ll be honest, I’ve been suffering with writer’s block. It’s such a clichéd term but it’s the truth. I’ve been insecure about writing and my work for a while now, and even questioning if it’s really something that I want to do with the rest of my life. Believe me, I’ve considered the more sensible careers, but to my horror, I’ve realised there’s only one thing in my life that has made me constantly happy, and that’s writing. It’s something I’ve always loved even though I may not be very good at it.
I think I enjoy writing so much because, nothing gives me greater relief than to express myself through the forum of the written word. Whether it’s fictional, factual, implied or just random facts, I can express myself so much better in a letter than I ever could in a random conversation. I also think it has helped me deal with some of my own personal issues, because I can put all of these thoughts together and analyse what’s really bothering me. The weight about nothing series was just supposed to be a one off blog rant but as the responses came in, I realised the insecurities that I was having about my own body, was something not just shared by me. It soon chronicled a strange journey I had with my own weight, body image, and most importantly self acceptance and love for the body I have. It’s not the result I expected and to be honest I know the journey is not over, but I like in a weird way how those blog posts chronicled my own weight loss, but are also a reflection of my own body image in general.
Then there is the fictional writing that started me on this doomed escapade from the age of nine. I remember my first story being written on a Aisling copybook about a princess and dragons and knights, I don’t know what happened but I am pretty sure it was the princess that saved day (in case you didn’t get it the princess was me). On paper I was bad ass in reality not so much. I was quirky and shy, a little strange and not so popular as a result. I didn’t want to play camogie, pokemon or what was deemed the normal things back then, but my parents didn’t care too much, they loved me for me (I realise now I was really lucky in that regard, I do have the most amazing supportive parents in the world). But I got picked on and yes, I was bullied and while I put a stop to it through weirdly enough the written word (I brought my diary to school..I was 11 but yes, I should’ve known better). The bullying made me realise that being creative and having a imagination was weird, and something I should suppress and not share with anyone. This was mostly out of fear of being picked on but importantly, it made me different.
This affirmed my status as an introvert. Now with friends and family, I can’t shut up but with strangers, work colleagues and classmates, I’m guarded. So if I talk to you a lot it means I like you, but most importantly, I trust you. Secondary school was in some ways an eye opener for me in regards my writing, but mostly a fighting ground to prove my worth. (I know that sounds cheesy bear with me). I chose to stay invisible and only speak when spoken to, but there were some subjects I found pretty hard to hide that and they were English and history. I loved poetry, I loved Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry and yes, I loved the Merchant of Venice (poor Shylock). But for a 14-15 year old to admit this out loud, pfft that would be social suicide (I was far from popular but I could not resist this Mean Girls quote).
But there was one way I could express myself and that was through my writing, and needless to say English was one of my strongest subjects. I particularly loved the opportunities that essay writing could give me, especially when it came to fictional storytelling and I will never forget the haunted house story that got me an A (I shall brag, I don’t get many A’s!). But despite all of this..I didn’t thrive as much in a test environment..in fact I failed spectacularly. My teachers suspected the reason for this but I wasn’t thrilled with what they were saying, and that conclusion was that I was probably dyslexic.
So the irony the one thing I probably loved to do most in the world was becoming unhinged, and for a teenager who only wanted to fit in, well I didn’t react well. I didn’t understand what dyslexia was or why I had it, but to me it was something that would make me stand out, when all I wanted to do was fit in. I also falsely assumed like many, that dyslexia was a mental disability and didn’t share what was going on with me with anyone as a result. Back then you would still have a star beside the grade you would receive in a state exam which highlighted that you received help (I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of but I was a teenager, and insecure one at that).
Needless to say I did the tests to see if I were indeed dyslexic and yes, there were issues with spelling and grammar (Basically, I didn’t think in a “linear” way and wouldn’t realise there were obvious misspellings. I have since discovered there is a technical term for this attentional dyslexia), the most obvious problem was time management and my failure for brain to process things quickly enough…which is pretty bad for an exam situation. While tests recognised I had these problems, technically I was borderline dyslexic (they showed me a graph..and I just above what would make me applicable grammar and spelling waivers), but I was applicable for extra time. But back then that wasn’t given in the Junior Cert(when I was in school could be different now) and it was an entirely different story for the leaving cert. But I got through the Junior Cert and I actually did quite well, but the Leaving Cert was a different story.
The biggest battleground was surprise English. I was ok doing pass anything else but not English. I loved English more than anything and I knew for a fact honours would be hard, but I also knew I would love it. It’s there I discovered my ultimate hero Adrienne Rich. If it were possible to fall in love with words in an instant, she achieved this for me and more. She made me fall in love with poetry, language in general and if I am honest, feminism. I adored her and needless to say was delighted when she appeared on the paper that year. But despite this my teacher was concerned for my ability to take on honours English as I was struggling in her eyes. In some ways I was, but I understood the topics in class but probably didn’t articulate it in the best way, so she was understandably concerned for me and suggested more than once I should probably do pass. But the thing is I knew I was capable of honours but more importantly, I knew English was my favourite subject which is ironic considering. But I proved my worth and she supported me for application once again for the grammar waivers, but again, it didn’t work out.
2008 was unfortunate leaving cert wise because it was then, they decided to get rid of the extra time for exams(the one thing I was applicable for). They felt it placed too much pressure on students, given that some of the exams were three hours. While I agree with this, I do have another suggestion how about getting rid of some of the unnecessary aspects when it comes to a lot of those leaving cert subjects(I’m sure there would be a field day for suggestions for that). Things did not fall in my favour, I was borderline again and not applicable for waivers and with no extra time, the leaving cert was going to be a struggle. I think the highlight from my leaving cert subjects was winning my teacher over, I ended up doing surprisingly well in the mocks and got the third highest grade of the class and the highest grade for a girl in the class. It was a nice moment, unfortunately that didn’t translate to the actual day but it didn’t matter because I got enough points to do the course I wanted to do, and leave probably one of the most difficult years behind me.
College was an entirely different story, I mean I am even smiling when I write this, because college is when I truly came into my element. I studied Arts and I loved it. I seriously wish I could go back and study it all again..I am aware of how nerdy that sounds, but seriously my time in NUIG was the most fun I’ve ever had. I was in my element I was studying things I loved, things I had a genuine interest in and although that was hard to admit in a lecture hall of 300 people, the truth came out in those seminars. But most of all college gave me the support I needed and didn’t receive in secondary school. I wasn’t applicable for grammar and spelling waivers but I got extra time in exams and those twenty minutes made all of the difference. They also put a name to my specific difficulty and I suppose I didn’t feel alone. But I felt Arts played to my strengths where majority of grades went towards continuous assessment as opposed to one big test. I also fell in love with writing again, I even took on a creative writing seminar(which was so much fun) but also helped me take another step which surprised everyone, including myself to volunteer for the college newspaper.
I suspected journalism might be an avenue I’d like to pursue, but I was shy and while I attended every meeting, I found it difficult to put myself out there. But my time with SIN was the best, everyone was so supportive and encouraging, it helped me grow as a person and grow in confidence. I also met one of my closest friends there, so for that I am definitely grateful. SIN helped improve my writing, gave me the strength to interview people(which was something I was not capable of three years beforehand) but it also gave me enough work to apply for a Masters in Journalism. Which much like the leaving cert I don’t regret doing, but I definitely wouldn’t do it again. Don’t get me wrong, I learnt a lot, I met amazing people and it opened great doors for me, that I have no doubt of. But it’s a tough industry, and one that can make writing seem more systematic and pressurising, rather than well interesting and yes, I will use the word fun.
I think that amongst many things has caused my insecurity towards my writing. I felt my writing wasn’t good enough, that there were clear mistakes that others could see but I could not, and after a while I just stopped trying. I received words of encouragement from friends and family but nothing seeped through. I mean it would take me weeks to write one blog post, which felt more like a chore than anything and really wasn’t the point of my blog. I tried taking on suggestions about writing about more fun topics (Friends), but still something wasn’t clicking. My dear friend also pointed out that I was much like Cath in FanGirl when it came to her insecurities about writing (great book, recommend reading it). I knew what was really wrong with me; I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel good enough to even properly try, to take a chance, because it didn’t feel worth the risk, or that I was worth the risk for someone else to take on.
But I’ve received some great advice lately from writers (one of them being the awesome friend who I have mentioned countless times in this) that we are all in this together. That it is a horrible process, it’s not easy but oh boy it’s worth it. One writer said to me that it’s not about networking (he thinks this is a bulllshit concept, and I do agree with him, than again I am an introvert) but it’s about connecting and meeting like minded people. He also gave another piece of advice which I’ve found most helpful; “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so the main thing is to keep writing.”
And I don’t know why but this week it finally clicked. I was told by another awesome writer that sometimes if you are having a block, the best thing you can do, is simply write about it. And here I am writing about it. This post was supposed to be short and was supposed to be about something else (another time, perhaps). But this post came to me so naturally, I actually can’t remember the last time I’ve written with ease and that’s probably because it’s something I needed to say. It also gave me the opportunity to talk about my dyslexia, something I’ve never felt comfortable with before, but since it’s been a big part of my struggle, it made sense to include it in this post. And if I’m honest, my head is clearer thanks to this post and I finally feel ready to write properly. As for now, I’m not sure what’s coming up or what I will be writing next, but one thing is for certain, I can’t wait to find out.
* I put a video and link to a great documentary about dyslexia which I remember coming across by accident as a teenager. Kara Tointon from EastEnders discusses her struggle with dyslexia in a moving, but informative matter. I particularly loved this documentary because it made me feel less alone when it came to my own dyslexia. I chose this clip because both me and Kara have a similar problem when it comes to losing objects..all the time(I just laugh about it at this stage).