First, the good news. Last time I was writing here, I was mid-struggle with a self-publishing project for the creative writing group that I teach. Well, the book has been published. ‘Oxfordshire Originals’ is a very respectable little collection of short stories and poems and we hope to launch it properly later in the Spring. My short biography of Elizabeth 1st for KS2 is all done bar a final edit and has received a terse ‘very good’ from my friend who is a professor of Tudor History. I’m up to my ears in work, all of a creative nature – so my work life is very happy.
On the domestic front, however, things are so bad that the scriptwriters of the Archers could find inspiration. I’m told Nigel has fallen off the roof and died! Well, no one’s died here but events in the last few weeks have proved equally unexpected and unlikely – so I am once again reminded that fact often proves stranger than fiction.
In the midst of this, there are things that have saved my sanity – my friends, my daughter introducing me to Michael Macintyre (who may be a Tory but at least he is a funny one), walking, swimming – and a wonderful book.
And that’s what I want to write about. For years, I have agonised over the value of my writing. Not in the ‘Am I great? Could I be the next George Eliot?’ fruitless sort of way but in the ‘Am I making a worthwhile contribution to the community?’ sort of way. Brought up by a disabled mother, I learnt to see doctors as god-like. To be a doctor seemed the most valuable thing anyone could be or do. But I was useless at sciences so there was no hope of a career there – and anyway, I wanted to be a children’s writer, a goal I have achieved. But there has always been a niggle. For me, as I despairingly explained to a friend once, ‘Just fun, won’t do’ - and writing is so much fun! I am learning to get over that – but I still struggle with the fact that there are just so many other books out there – what am I thinking of, trying to write yet another?
Talking about this to a friend recently, she told me how books for her had been a life-saver as a small and very troubled child in a broken home. Books had been her haven. They had saved her life. More should be written. Hmm, I thought, sceptically. And then I started reading ‘The Road Home’ by Rose Tremain.
It’s an understated story about Lev, an economic migrant, but it had me gripped. Something about Lev’s struggle to make his way, to pick himself up again and again from the blows that battered him, gave me hope. I kept returning to his story as haven and inspiration. I still think of Lev now and remind myself that if he could do it, so can I – even though he is a fictional character. It is not a story where all ends happily – but it is a story where grit and perseverance and love prevail.
I still don’t know about my own writing – how worthwhile it is compared with other things that I do. But I do know that Rose Tremain’s book has helped me – and I am sure there are innumerable people out there for whom a particular book has been a special help through a particularly traumatic time in their lives. Please do share any that have done that for you. Thank you.