Last year the Editor of the News and Star invited me to write a guest column for this paper. She found me, because I blog away quietly every week on a site called Foxglove Lane (foxglovelane.com) As what she was asking seemed to be a one-off adventure, I wrote about some of my passions; creativity, imagination and happiness. Within a couple of weeks she came back to me and offered me a regular spot.
My first reaction was “But I’m not a writer, I’m a photographer!” Luckily she didn’t take much notice and this column was born. I had been writing a blog for 5 years and yet I still felt the urge to deflect from the facts!! The thing is, I love writing and I was thrilled to be given the opportunity. Strange as it may seem every so often I have a funny old wobble like this.
Why do we doubt ourselves and our abilities? Wouldn’t you think that to survive and thrive we would have a more solid foundation of confidence and sure footedness? Wouldn’t you think that going to school for so many years might have enabled better self esteem? Then why is it that so many of us struggle to believe in our own worth and talent?
I find if you ask people why they don’t feel they are creative it goes back to being undermined at a young age. For me it was our English teacher. She was the kind we all wanted to please. Tough and brilliant, although she spoiled the beauty of words with her tuneless voice, she loved poetry and inspired us to think for ourselves. It made our day when she gave us high grades.
One day, aged about 15, I wrote in a risky style about my love of Dylan Thomas the Welsh poet. I had a fierce crush on a boy with long black hair who became a poet in later life and it coloured my essay which was gushing with girly superlatives. Miss A literally threw the essay back at me with one word -Trite!!!! Yes, it was less harsh than a previous generation who would have gotten a clip in the ear, but instilling doubt is a subtle affair.
I recoiled from English after that, towing the line to get my grades, but never really expressing my own voice. Instead I was drawn towards the Art Teacher, Mrs B, an older woman, so warm and laid back that we could all express ourselves in a bit of peace. In Mrs Bs class you could fade into the background and no matter what kind of work you produced she would always compare you to some famous artist. “O that’s just like Jack Yeats” (when there was sploshy paint everywhere) or “Did you ever see Degas’ drawings?” (when you needed some guidance on improving your attempts at portraiture) Mrs. B I salute you!! You helped us find our way without a cross word.
When I became an Art teacher myself, I knew from personal experience the importance of allowing people peace and space. We all develop our talents and creativity in such different ways. If you ever want to test this just watch a group of preschoolers at work. Recently I took a toddler for a walk and we both ended up just standing in one spot examining stones. A true artist!
Maybe it’s just the time of year, but in spite of outward appearances I’m a bit of a shrinking violet. Like a lot of people I find being in the public eye a challenge. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have strong opinions or a good dollop of fearlessness, but I am first and foremost an introvert. Think more the mouse who roared, rather than the mouse who cowered!
Are we just more accustomed to the louder voices of extroverts? They are the ones energised by the limelight and the buzz. They shine and dazzle. They can talk for Ireland. They radiate and connect easily with people. But we introverts can also raise our voices and want to be heard, even though we will find a million reasons not to.
I now know that there’s no point in waiting until all your ducks are in a row, until you think everything is perfect, until you feel good enough. At a certain point when you are truly sick of yourself and your procrastination you will “sit down at a typewriter and bleed” as Ernest Hemingway said. It’s OK to be a work in progress.
And the one argument in my head that made me jump at writing this column? What my Grandmothers, Great Grandmothers and Great Great Grandmothers would have advised. Write a column for the newspaper? Tell the world how you see it? I think they would have said “For feck’s sake get on with it and use your voice girl!!”
Or words to that effect.