Okay, health warning, this is quite a deep subject but one I think is pretty important and it came to me over a general chat catching up with two friends last week.
I’ve worked out lately that I’m really crap with uncertainty and this is what I was talking about to them. I’m not a huge forward planner, month by month is enough, but I like to know roughly what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and tend to look forwards rather than backwards, full steam ahead; that is until life throws you a curve ball.
There’s a flummox of uncertainty around us at the moment, in a few different areas, which isn’t hugely disastrous, I don’t want to be overly dramatic, BUT It is an unusual circumstance for us to be in and so it’s putting us a bit in limbo, a little stuck. As I said I like to keep moving forward so I’m not used to this inertia and waiting to see what happens.
Thankfully we are not the types to panic, in general, I tend to not get very upset in life and you’re far more likely to get me crying over an episode of 24hrs in A&E than actually attending A&E with a family member, which is a little bit weird I know!
As a complete Empath, I tend to feel what others feel, rather than feeling upset if something happens directly to me, when that happens, I go into practical mode and problem solve.
However, I had a bit of a light-bulb moment in our discussion, one of my friends is training to be a counsellor and so is rather intuitive and knowledgeable about this stuff. Talking it through, I realised feeling this anxiety over uncertainty, likely stems from my childhood (usually the case huh?!). Back then I was not in control, my parents were and there was nothing I could do about some pretty turbulent times aged 11-18.
Speaking to my friend, I told her that people sometimes think I’m odd, because I don’t show emotion when explaining what happened in those times, and to be fair that is genuinely a dramatic story, it would make a great book.
I was so determined to not let that period in my life affect me, that I packaged it all up very neatly in multiple boxes with extra secure padlocks and piled them up in a deep bunker so that it’s practically impossible to access it.
As an adult now, I mostly feel fully in control of my destiny, to the extent of being part of a family who also get a say in our direction, but in no way do we lead ourselves into the path of danger or uncertainty, purposely.
When I explained how I’d ‘coped’ with my childhood experiences she gently smiled and said that sometimes, despite it being painful we have to re-visit them, reassess how we feel about what happened now we are further down the line and look them in the eye, so they don’t feel so dark and threatening, before once again returning to normal life.
This is something that I very rarely do, unless something triggers a memory of that time, I certainly don’t go seeking it out. She’d had a similar situation recently, which was comforting to know as she too has had very challenging times but now that she had the tools from her training, she knew what to do; looked it in the eye, talked it through, dealt with it accordingly and moved on.
I then explained that talking about it never bothers me (mainly I think because I feel so distanced from that bunker), but writing about it does. As a writer you’d think that would be the first place I’d start and not so long ago I realised I often write about what I’ve done, achieved or notes to do in my diary but rarely go deeper, never explain how I feel at the time.
To me writing about it feels too real, if you write it down, it’s history on a page, it happened, and do I truly want to have that as part of my story?
Yet, duh, of course it is part of my story, not writing it down doesn’t mean it never happened.
So, I’ve come up with a solution, to see if tackling uncertainty (old and new) head-on helps, instead of trying to squash it down and wonder why I’m not feeling at my best.
I’ve decided to write things down but with a difference, to write as a character, as a 3rd party, creating the distance to not let it become too overwhelming.
Examining this idea, I realised I’ve done this before, back in my Uni days I wrote one of our final pieces for my degree, which had to be about a personal experience.
My article centred on the divorce of my parents, and all that happened over a few years, but I started off writing it as if I was looking down, watching the girl I once was, sat in a garden, cross-legged making daisy chains which bizarrely made it enjoyable and therefore I did a ‘good’ job of getting the story across without being over emotional, yet it was still very real.
I must’ve done a pretty convincing job because my tutor called me in after giving me the top mark and questioned, ‘Did this really happen?’ and when I answered yes, then asked, ‘Well how did you turn out to be so normal then?’ Hmmm I beg to differ, but it was funny at the time!
It taught me the lesson of how powerful personal experience writing can be and yet I’ve rarely done it since. I was 21 when I wrote it, had escaped my small Yorkshire home-town and a house full of memories to the seafront and buzz of Plymouth, maybe that was the story I just had to get out at the time, in order to truly put it to bed.
Last week I went back to my various writing groups and I know this new knowledge will help me access those less joyful experiences and tap into a deeper creativity, but it does require an element of courage when letting other people hear your work!
For example, I’ve got homework to do on ‘settings’ for one group and I’ve chosen my experiences at a young age of going into what felt like the ‘adult’ world of the Working Men’s Club on a Saturday night with my parents and recognising the differences between them, even back then.
For Yorkshire Writers Lunch, I’ve put my name down to do a post on November the 4th and have written a very personal story around Bonfire night and what that date means to me now.
I think getting the feel and atmosphere of the story across becomes even more essential with personal stories, because they mean more to you, you want the reader to feel as you did. Ultimately that’s the magical possibility of a good story.
The question is, will I be brave enough to read it out and test the waters at my local bookshop, Read’s new writing group that I’m also joining this week? I hope so.
As ever, when I have light-bulb moments like these it leads on to a catalogue of ideas and so the next logical step for me is to pass on knowledge and share experience and so, in the early hours of this morning (as we returned to my daughter’s swim training), I planned a whole new writing course in my head, around this very topic!
The ‘Playing with Writing’ workshops I’ve done this year have gone so well as an introduction to people to creative writing, to help them generate ideas and look for stories in every-day life.
Doing them has taught me even more about the value of people doing something creative, to take some time out for themselves and produce something personal to them. It feels good to be on the right track and I want to do more!
So, this is what I’m going to focus on; ‘Writing from Personal Experience’ to delve deeper into this topic and give participants the tools and tips to get going with new exercises and as before, in a safe, small, supportive group.
I’ll keep you posted when I’ve created the workshop and what the dates will be @miriamskitchentable, I’m hoping to start in October.
September is such an exciting time for me, that new sense of possibility and changing of seasons – home-made soups and jam, cosy fires and candles; I’m all about the Hygge season!
To beat the uncertainty, I’m forging on, keeping busy and inspired by the wonderful creative community around me and doing what fills me with joy the most, my creative projects – it really is the best medicine in tricky times. Maybe that’s also why I love the seasons so much, they are naturally predictable, certain, always moving through.
Another exciting focus this week will be the next WOW Wednesday, and for those who want to know all about that, I’ve recently updated the page here, we’d love to see you there.
Next week I’ll fill you in on how my bonfire story is received by the group at Read and also what the Vision Board Workshop is like that I’m going to tomorrow, run by @writerstogether – I can’t wait!
I hope that this post has made you think and consider using your own personal experiences to challenge you more in your creative projects, I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments!
Until next time…
Juliet, The Curious Creative x
Ps The main picture is from a dusk walk the other evening, inspired by listening to @tiffany.francis , author of recently published Dark Skies on the In The Moment podcast this week. Nothing like a September sunset to keep you looking on the bright side.