I took part in an amazingly encouraging workshop on Writing Resilience this morning, organised as part of the Stay-at-home! Fringe Festival and led by Nikki Dudley. The stated aim of the workshop was to “boost your confidence and make you a more resilient writer”. And how I needed that!
One of the exercises was to acknowledge successes in your writing experience, no matter how small. Some of the group shared and we were able to celebrate together, which was wonderful. I’m consistently struck by how supportive the writing community can be. In a dog-eat-dog world, celebrating with one another is a radical act.
I finished what I started writing earlier and have decided to share it as a way of er, boosting my confidence and making me a more resilient writer. Here goes…
Ruth came late to the world of words, preferring to wait for her sisters to communicate her every need to her parents rather than bothering to do so herself. She finally succumbed to speech at the age of three purely in order to banish her sister from her sight in no uncertain terms. She grew up in a home wallpapered with words and as a child books were some of her best friends. During her teenage years she wrote intense angst-ridden poetry for the school magazine.
Words continued to hold a fascination for Ruth, who by now had other languages to explore them in. She wrote her way through university, eating up the words like scrolls and keeping them safe for later, some locked away so safely that she can no longer remember them.
While writing her translation thesis she discovered that, despite being well equipped to dissect words and meaning and record the results for posterity, she was not cut out for an entirely solitary and theoretical career of linguistic and semantic surgery.
She briefly turned to the spoken word and the world of rhythm and rhyme and with relief even managed to write and record some poems after initially mistaking them for rap.
No longer destined for rap greatness, Ruth promptly forgot all about spoken word and concentrated on speaking words for other people in languages they didn’t speak with a greater or lesser degree of success.
After marrying the love of her life and making a move transatlantically and translingually, Ruth’s English worsened to the point that she thought it unlikely that she would ever write again, whilst her limitations in Portuguese made it even more unlikely that she would ever achieve the fluency necessary to write creatively.
Mentally trapped in the interstice of too weak for one language and not strong enough for the other, Ruth not only stopped writing, she wrote off writing altogether.
Some years later, during the early days of lockdown, the God-given dreams of writing came back to Ruth and she unearthed those long-forgotten spoken word recordings and shared them in Instaland. Responding to an invitation to an online spoken word event was another big step and somehow Ruth emerged blinking into the worldwide family of Christian spoken word poets. She has since given some pretty remarkable performances of her poetry at online events, often punctuated by insistent shouts for yoghurt and cameos featuring chubby hands held out unrelentingly for biscuits.
Ruth has taken tentative leaps of faith into writing in Portuguese (thereby proving the maxim that there’s nothing like having your grammar corrected to keep you humble) and has realised that there are other ways to write beside spoken word.
She has started to write to capture moments and memories, to remind herself of subtropical sunshine on darker days, of the beauty of here for times when she is no longer Brazil-bound, and of goodness, truth and hope when she is tempted to despair.
Recently Ruth decided to take the plunge and start submitting her poetry to literary journals and in so doing has discovered that they are far more selective than hashtags. She continues to pour herself into her words and her writing and is now starting to learn to roll with the punches.