What I know about writing

I was 10 when I started a diary. I was consumed with fear about what to write in it. I’d peek over my sisters shoulder as she scribbled away wondering how the thoughts flowed out of her head and onto the page. When the anxiety passed Id throw caution to the wind and write down what I actually thought.

I wasnt Penny Pollard. I had no horses or Mrs Bettany to write about. There was an old lady called Zoe who lived next door who used to call to think that our childhood girlfriend Jodie was a boy but that was about as edgy as it got, back then.

I’d write about how much my grandma bugged the shit out of me. She was a funny old person who would make us speak to her in Italian despite her Scottish heritage. I’d tuck the diary away under my bed and then wake late at night worried that something awful would happen to her. I’d rub out all the negative words and replaced them with positive ones. I still have that diary – its full of rubber shavings, changed tenses and hate turned to love. I failed at Diary writing 101.

Speaking the truth, by exploring your own narrative, isn’t an innate skill. Its a muscle that needs stretching to test how far you can go before it pushes you out over the edge. Sans rubber shavings. Writing as a way of healing is probably one of the reasons why people blog, why they wear their thoughts on the outside rather than tucking them in. The healing doesnt necessarily have to be from catastrophic wrongs, from traumatic losses, but simply from the action of growing up and into the person you know yourself to be. I dont think of myself as a writer, just as a person that writes down words.

In capturing what I know about ideas we can see how, when we look at what we know and then compare it to others, all our experiences are laid out along a continuum. A big line of then and now and all the spaces in between.

Writing takes lots of forms. Not having a strong voice in the real world allows you to have a powerful one when those fingers start tapping away.

Whats makes you tap away?

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23 Responses to What I know about writing

  1. Kirrily says:

    I tried to write a diary too. I was 14 or something when I started. Seriously, I think the first entry professed my eternal love for Stefan Edberg (the tennis player) and the next one went on about “the stupid war” because I was firmly convinced the Gulf War was going to ruin my summer tennis tv viewing…

  2. Naomi says:

    I had a diary, full of love for boys I don’t know any more and desires to be kissed.
    Why I tap away is such a hard thing to answer. I think mostly, because I don’t know how not to now.

    • Sarah says:

      I wrote about a boy that I didnt even like, pretending I did so I had one to write about. Story of my life Naomi…thanks for tapping your thoughts out for this x

  3. Kelly Exeter says:

    I had a diary too and I wrote it in a way that if ever anyone ever found it and read, no one would be offended or learn something about me that I didn’t want them to know.

    Not surprisingly, I didn’t last long with my diary!!

    • Sarah says:

      someone must have done some research on non honest diary writing Kel and what that means about our temperament. Ill look into it x

  4. Karen says:

    I had a few attempts at diaries, but they always came with the threat of being discovered by an older sibling. The thought of being ribbed for all eternity over some crush scrawled in a diary was too much to bare.
    Loved this post. Couldn’t have written it better. x

  5. Karen says:

    Too much to bear. Freudian slip? ;)

    • Sarah says:

      Ribbed for all eternity or damned for all eternity? I always had visions of someones funeral and a person whipping out my diary and saying ‘well lets just hear exactly what Sarah thought of them….’. I think I need some long term therapy to work through my Catholic guilt.

  6. I still have a diary… But I protect it with my atrocious handwriting. When I started working as an office junior, I had to learn shorthand and quickly developed my own style of note taking. Now, my diary is written in a very tiny “doctor’s scrawl” styled of shorthand.

    I know that no one else can understand it because…


    Half the time I can’t ;)

    • Sarah says:

      Using shorthand would be like writing with invisible ink – the ultimate tool in making sure your inner world doesnt escape to the outside.

  7. I had a diary for a bit, I think. I started my first blog in 1999 and wrote all kinds of bollocks and mostly quoted song lyrics. Some of it is still online. At least it serves as an indication of how far my writing has come (sometimes).

    • Sarah says:

      My best friend through high school used to write song lyrics everywhere…on her walls, in her school diary, I was always amazed at her ability to listen to music and not just hear the songs – she noticed the poetry. We even had our favourite quotes from You Am I songs printed on T-shirts to wear to their gigs…um we may have even laminated pics of them from drum media and turned them into earrings. Now Ive fallen down this rabbit hole, I may never pull myself out. Ill just go and stare at the beer can the lead singer dropped and I collected back in 1997…

  8. Jayne says:

    I imagine I’d cringe if I ever read any of my diary angst. I also lived in fear of those words coming back to haunt me if someone were to discover them. “I LOVE whatisname SOOOO much and he doesn’t even know I exist…” Haha!

    Have you ever tried not writing? I think no matter how hard I’ve avoided writing in the past, I always come back to it.

    • Sarah says:

      Funny thing is Jayne that until I started my blog last year I had never written before but then in saying that out aloud and looking around I realised that for the last 10 years Id been writing (for clients) all of the stories they told me. I guess you sometimes have to let go of what you think writing is, to realise that you do it.

  9. Carli says:

    I’ve had a few diaries. One was supposed to be a travel journal that ended up being an ode to a boy back home who wouldn’t commit, who funnily enough I ended up marrying. I’m a little scared to dig that one out.

    • Sarah says:

      That would be an amazing anniversary present Carli…I always wished I had have had a long distance romance and that I kept the letters and read them as an old lady (I think I wished it, or it might have been a movie).

  10. My diary was my best friend during my teenage years. So much so that I still actually have them all. Sad but true! Oh and yes they are well hidden :)

    • Sarah says:

      Never sad Jodi! Watching my step daughter navigate the teen years Im thinking that a diary is probably the safer bet – far less angst and focus on clothes!

  11. Dianne says:

    Yes, I have found writing as a way of healing. For me it was journalling coupled with affirmations. It’s only in the past few years (and through a tough period in my life) my journalling was a part of my survival like breathing and I would wake up and write as I would wake and breathe. I saw the power in words. Now, writing has become more relaxed and has moved into a phase of self discovery.

    • Sarah says:

      Its an interesting idea that the angst that comes through our writing can plot the times where life has been tough Diane – writing as a way of healing allows you to see the movements you’ve made over time. Thanks for reading x

  12. I’ve never had a diary. A blog has always been my diary.
    Penny Pollard – her name rings a bell. Who was she?

  13. Penny Pollard’s Diary, oh the memories that book evokes!!!

    Writing has always been part of my world, and even during the times I wasn’t actively engaging in this activity, it was still never far from my thoughts. Still, it was tough to find the right words to convey what I actually do know in this post. Definitely it was a challenge that I tried to avoid, but am so glad now that I did not.

    Thanks for having me x

  14. Sarah says:

    I used to write in a diary, I have a whole bundle of them tucked away in storage. I stopped doing because I almost die of boredom reading them. I am contemplating sending them to the defence force as weapons of mediocre destruction. I have written a lot of them to my future self. I’ve written letters to myself in the future too.

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