On Twitter the other day, I did something that I usually try and avoid.
You know when you’re scrolling down your timeline, and something amusing or clever jumps out, and before you know it you’ve retweeted it? It’s actually a quote or a headline from a much longer article but you haven’t read the whole thing, just retweeted it to the world without checking that the rest of the content is something you’d want to share? We’ve all been there. Haven’t we? Ah, maybe just me then.
I am usually much better at policing my Twitter output. I tend to share things that make me think, make me laugh or articulate a view of my own in a far more eloquent way than I can manage. But I always read the whole article and I mostly check out who I’m retweeting too. Yet in this case, I forgot.
It was because the 140 characters posted with this particular link, hit home immediately. It didn’t matter what the rest said, because it had me at it’s equivalent of hello. So enough build up, here is what I read that grabbed me…
“Writing a book is like telling a joke and having to wait two years to find out if it is funny.”
I mean, come on. As soon as I read it, I thought, ‘Yep, that is EXACTLY how it is.’ Hence my immediate retweet, and then my less immediate reading of the entire piece. That sentence is in fact the opening line to an article by Hazel Gaynor entitled The Invisible Days. In it, she explains how much of writing is done below the surface, invisibly. Squeezed into slots in a real life that is filled with self-doubt and is distinctly non-glamorous. Gaynor sums it up pretty damn well, but for me that opening line is key.
I began my book three years ago. I had to wait for two years and two months for the first person to read it. As more and more friends and family (I’m now up to twelve) read it and feedback to me, I am finally starting to find out whether the past three years were worth it - whether my joke was funny or not. And that is hard. It is hard not to have regular, daily moments of feeling on top, feeling like I am achieving marvellous things, feeling like each moment of the day has been won. Finally hearing positive feedback is brilliant, but the nature of the beast is that it’s a long time coming. And that is the binary opposite of my pre-writing existence.
In my previous life I was a Primary Teacher. If you get me drunk I will regale with you with all the issues and criticisms I have with the education system in this country, and what needs to change to improve it. The good news is, however, that when I look back over my teaching career, I have a never-ending supply of winning moments. Despite a restrictive curriculum, an obsessive focus on test results, and the never-ending uncontrollable fear that OFSTED are close (Lordy, I’m not even tipsy and look at me!) my brain still prioritises the wins and has disregarded the negative times as unimportant.
I remember the plays and assemblies. There were the ground-breaking 4NB productions of Henry V and Romeo and Juliet and the innovative 1NB production of Shampoozel (an updated Rapunzel, where she was a hairdresser’s daughter obvs.) These were times when shy children stood up and fought their fear, and lively children channelled their exuberance into an entertaining performance. There was Science week when we turned white flowers blue with food dye in their water and made Mentos shoot out of a Coke bottle in the playground. There was Roald Dahl week when we made Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake, and I watched an eight year old looked panic-stricken as he realised he’d added a teaspoon of flour instead of a tablespoon. Then I cheered inside, as I silently watched the rest of the team do the maths, and work out that two more teaspoons would make up the tablespoon. And I remember one boy that really struggled, finally spelling his name correctly with no letter reversals, and his beaming pride as he did a lap of honour throughout the school with his whiteboard. Teachers high fived him and older kids patted him on the back as he showed off his now correctly written name. There were a million moments that I remember that made me feel ace. There were a million wins a day.
|A reminder of my old life amidst the clutter of the new one|
And so to writing. Please don’t misunderstand me, I really love this. I love that I have time for this level of self-indulgence, and I love the fact I no longer have to deal with all the educational issues I rant about when I am bladdered. But to go from feeling useful and valuable in society as a teacher, to sitting home alone, making vague ideas in my head sound interesting to read on the page, is quite the leap. And it is quite the leap to accept that I won’t feel super-duper clever and amazing several times a day.
The good news is, that it is a leap I think I have made quite well. I have come to realise that the important thing is NOT to accept there will be no wins today but rather lower my expectation about what constitutes a win in the first place. Finding the buzz in the little things tides you over between big achievements that will undoubtedly be there one day. This is good advice for anyone, regardless of job, although I’m aware I’m starting to sound like a budget life coach here. Sorry, I’ll stop preaching. And yet, I feel I need to finish by sharing my recent wins with the world.
First of all, I made the FITTEST hot and sour soup ever, yesterday. I followed this recipe, but chucked in double the mushrooms, with some chicken and prawns. I am still thinking about it today, and as Tina Fey showed us how to, several years ago, I high fived a million angels once I’d tasted it. A clear win. My next recent moment of personal celebration is that I found a top for a night out I am having soon. This is no simple feat. For me, a going-out top has to have some semblance of sleeves, be at least hip length, have stretch in it, no buttons due to gape-age (Can I patent that word?) and can’t be in a colour that could be described as pink, nude or pretty. And yet despite these challenges, between myself and the Wallis concession in Liverpool One’s Debenhams, I managed it. More or less. Yay me, again.
The final win - one that I generally experience on a daily basis - is that I got up. It is the first thing to cross off on my To Do list, and is usually the hardest. I got up, I sat at my desk and I wrote some words. It’s a small thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of celebration. Life Coach Bond, over and out.