"I've often thought about writing, but....."
Once people know I've written a book about adoption – and A Child in the Middle is written from both a personal and professional point of view - this is often what they say. “I've thought about writing, but I wouldn't know where to start." Or, "I'd really like to be able to write about my story, but I'm not creative at all."
Adopted, adoptive parents, birth parents, extended families – so many people feel that almost instinctive urge to put pen to paper. Why? As many different reasons exist as there are people, I guess, but perhaps there are a few which many of us share.
I have so much inside me that sometimes it feels like I’m going to burst. I think writing might be a way of releasing the pressure.
I’d like to have a way of capturing what has happened to me, or my family; I think it might give me a sense of control to put things in order and to express my feelings.
I'd like to have made a record so that in the future there will be no secrets. It will say this is what really happened.
I’d like to share my thoughts, feelings and ideas about adoption with other people; with those who have had similar experiences and might be struggling or with those who don’t understand, but want to.
I’d like to create a book, story, poem or letter and that piece of writing would be an expression of my identity. This is who I am, it would say, loudly, beautifully, powerfully.
Whether you want to publish or whether this writing is going to be just for your own eyes, the place to start is here and the time to start is now and the way to do it is to follow these 3 steps
1. Get a new notebook (It doesn’t have to be posh and expensive – in fact it’s probably better if it’s not, because those leather beauties which beckon you from the revolving stand in W H Smith put a whole lot of pressure on you to be brilliant. We’re not aiming for brilliance, we just want something to write in.)
2. Identify a time in the morning when you’re regularly likely to have ten or fifteen minutes to yourself. (I know, real life gets in the way, but believe me it is possible. For me it always used to be on the train on the way to work. All this working from home business has thrown a spanner in the works. Morning is best: the day is ahead of you. Evening is not so good, because you just tend to obsess about the day that's gone and can't be changed.)
3. At that time, with that notebook, sit down and write. No-one else is going to read this. Maybe even you will never read over it. There is no pressure. No right or wrong. Nothing too boring, nothing too personal, nothing too weird. Write whatever comes into your mind and write without judging yourself. It’s a sort of mindfulness with a pen, if you like. Aim to cover two or three pages, then close the book and be on your way.
Why and how does this practice known as ‘morning pages’ work?
- It gets you in the habit of writing. Writing is hard. There are always a million ways to avoid starting. It can be scary. But this way you just get used to doing it.
- It clears your mind. That might be helpful just in how your day turns out, but it might also help the important things surface and be ready for more conscious writing.
- It gives you a voice. You can look at those pages and think, “I wrote that. This is an expression of me." And that matters.
- And if you persevere with this habit, then neither the process of writing nor what to write about or how to write about it will seem so daunting.
Why not listen to Fearne Cotton talking to Julia Cameron about this?
Next time I blog, I'll assume you've all taken this first step! Then we can think about how to start channeling all this released creativity into the sort of writing you want to achieve.
Go for it!
Buy the notebook!
Make the time!
Catherine Chanter is a best-selling novelist, author of The Well and The Half Sister. Her most recent publication, A Child in the Middle, is an exploration of adoption from a personal and professional perspective, telling the story of her search for her birth parents along with reflections from her many years spent supporting children and young people from fractured families.