This is the story of how EBL came to be blogging for your terror and delight. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
You see, last weekend I attended a writing day in nearby Pickering. I have never been to a writing day before so I was properly nervous about it. I had visions of reading out my drivelling word count to sniggers, and even roars, of derision; I felt I would never be brave enough to do that, but the very nice lady running the course assured me I would not have do any such thing if I didn’t want to. So off I went, admittedly with trepidation in my heart, but also hope and a flurry of antici…
It’s a funny thing, my dears. I can happily witter on to you all with never a care in the world. You are patient and kind and tolerant. You don’t laugh in my face or make snide remarks in the post comments. I applaud you and thank you and am humbled by you.
I started playing about with this new blogging thing some years ago, largely to amuse myself, to understand the possibilities for work related projects, and to keep in touch with family and read their blogs. I had three or four blogs including this one, which is actually the newest. This is the secret blog. I didn’t tell anyone it was here and I used it to experiment a bit more. I hoped no one would read it, and to be fair, no one did. I still wrote in notebooks as well, and in fact I still do that now. Sometimes writing by hand on paper is simply the best way.
Then last Autumn I decided to give NaNoWriMo a pop. That all came about because I responded to a prompt or meme or something, and wrote a little story. The characters came alive in my head and a couple of people picked it up through the prompt tags and said nice things to me, which was a complete surprise and very frightening. Once in NaNoWriMo I made more links to people and by blogging my progress daily I got a few more comments and even a follower or two. Everyone was very nice and friendly and supportive so I felt braver and braver.
So when I saw the workshop advertised I decided to give it a go. I knew I would technically be free as I was due to have completed the software developments I was working on. So why not? I like to write and I like to get inspiration for writing. What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, when the day arrived I was trying to make up all kinds of excuses for not going. I have mentioned a couple of times recently that I am a workaholic. One of the effects this has on me is to make me completely anti-social away from work. I feel stripped right back to the core and very vulnerable. I don’t socialise because I am always working. When I am required to meet humans I find it very difficult. I was never a sociable being in the first place, and the workload has helped me to withdraw further. I have recently recognised this pattern and I want to change it.
So there I was on Saturday, making excuses. Sigoth saw right through that. When I couldn’t find food for lunch he found me something to eat. When I didn’t know what to take he talked me through packing a bag (notebook, pen, lunch, phone in case I wanted to come home, money). When I missed the bus he gave me a lift.
In I went and helped make tea for everyone as I was a few minutes early. Tea making is a great soother. Once I had a tray set up and a pot brewing I felt better. People arrived and had drinks. Biscuits appeared and we all sat around for half an hour not being dangerously inquisitive abut each other’s writing, but just discussing the apples and plums on the trees, and recipes for chutney. I could manage that.
Then we went into the main room to start and it was very peaceful and there was soothing music and a candle and we heard the rules about how the day would go and it all felt safe. I could manage that too.
The technique we used on the day was based on the techniques used by Joanne Klassen and in particular we followed the Just 5 Minutes technique. With this, as the name suggests, you time yourself to write for just 5 minutes, then stop. It can be any nonsense but the idea is to keep writing even so. This is similar to The Artist’s Way and various other authors and guides to writing, so I was familiar with the idea and felt comfortable doing it. Everyone else also settled down pretty quickly and soon we were all scratching away merrily in our notebooks, all very privately. I could even manage that.
Our theme, unsurprisingly, was Autumn, and we used a number of prompts and triggers to do a series of five minute writing exercises, then talked about them in small groups of four. Some people read out what they had written. Others, myself included, did not. I couldn’t quite manage that bit.
In the final session of the day we had the chance to share one thing we had written or learned during the day. Most people now felt able to read out a piece, and as more and more people in the circle did so I became increasingly determined to overcome my own anxiety. I wanted to manage that!
Suddenly I seized my chance and said I would read out my imaginative piece. Everyone waited as I sorted myself out and started to read. It was very quiet afterwards. My ears became attuned to stifled amusement. I didn’t dare look at anyone. Not managing.
Then one of the others said she would like to hear it again.
I nearly died with embarrassment. Was it so garbled they hadn’t understood it? It is true I get carried away with wild flights of fancy, and friends and colleagues are often left bemused by my non sequiturs. I read it again, not at all sure I wasn’t going to cry. This was far worse than blogging. It was desperately humiliating. There were real people in the same room hearing me read.
There was another silence, then someone said they really liked it and someone else said it made them shiver. I took that to mean a good thing. One of them asked to take my book and read it out loud again. How strange the words sounded in another voice, as she stumbled over my scribbles.
I did plan to share it with you here, but won’t. It was a few short sentences written in just five minutes. It is small and insignificant on the page. You had to be there.
What I really wanted to share with you was my amazement and gratitude for the generosity of others, and my journey from secret blogger to bold, brave writer who fearlessly shared a paragraph with humans in real-space. I wanted to thank the people who helped me feel safe in a group of strangers.
Many of you are confident, shining writers who don’t need to be told you produce marvellous works (although it never hurts to say it). However, some of us are not so confident, and if you, like me, have no faith in yourself, then take heart.
Live adventurously. Be brave, and trust the kindness of strangers to shine a light on your path to help you find your way.