Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Escaping from the Pigeon-Hole by Lynda Waterhouse

I’m feeling a bit breathless. The effort of squeezing myself out of a narrow pigeonhole has left me a little dizzy and light-headed. Fortunately my good friend, Robert Meyrick, is on his way round with a bottle or two of Prosecco to calm my nerves.
 He is town to give a talk at The Royal Academy of Arts about a show he has researched and curated entitled From the Shadows; The Prints of Sydney Lee RA (1866-1949).  Not since 1945 has there been an exhibition devoted to Lee’s art. It states in the guide book, ‘ This exhibition is entirely due to the vision of a tiny band of collectors who have kept faith with Sydney Lee’s work despite 60 years of neglect, and have quite literally snatched it from the shadows.’

 One New Year’s Eve many moons ago my friend Tracy Lee and I donned headscarves and sunglasses and posed drunkenly in front of his vast and beautiful painting The Roman Wall (1925). It made me smile to see it again hanging over a magnificent marble fireplace in Academy. But that is one of the possibilities of a creative life. The spotlight can shine on you at any moment.
 The theme of this exhibition chimes with my current mood as I too feel that I am emerging from out of a dark shadow. For the last year or so I have felt myself being squeezed into a narrow pigeon-hole labelled, middle aged mid-list author. I do not see myself in this way but cannot seem to shake off this feeling that somewhere along the line a young intern has placed me on an end of writing life pathway where I do not belong.

Here’s how
Step One - Altering my own perception
I do not have to accept my place in the pigeon-hole. My head and heart are brimful of stories waiting to be told
Step two - Writing for me
I have taken three steps backwards in order to move forward and I am writing those stories that have been niggling away at my soul.
Step three - Finding fresh fields to conquer
I have been travelling in order to find myself. A visit to the creative writing department at Cornell University and the warm welcome I received was a boost. And many thanks to Megan for reading my latest novel and giving such smart feedback!
Step four - Old Friends
The support of SASSIES and Islington Writers’ For Children Group has kept me going.
Step five - Never Giving Up
No matter what I can’t stop creating characters and telling stories. It is woven onto my DNA. It is impossible for me to give up.
So I am on the move flying towards a more comfortable pigeon-hole. I can just make out the label. It says …?


adele said...

This is a very brave and positive post, Lynda and I am sure you will emerge refreshed and invigorated and on some good path. I know the feeling (middle aged, midlist, in the shadows, etc) and can report that there is light at the end of the tunnel though the tunnel is very long indeed sometimes and these days, in publishing, even longer...not giving up is a good option I reckon. And I'm actually not middle aged any longer but rapidly approaching bona fide OLD AGE! Chin up!

Lynne Garner said...

Great post and I know what you mean about pigeon holes. For some reason all walks of life seem to want to put you into one. Jumping from one to the other is perhaps one of life's joys. Keep 'em guessing.

Ann Turnbull said...

Thanks, Lynda. This is a very heartening post. I too am in a pigeonhole but mine is labelled "elderly midlist writer" so it's even more cramped. But the ideas and enthusiasm never go away and even old pigeons can fly!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

If we form a flock we'll be unstoppable! Many thanks for your comments. They are very much appreciated

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Of course the trick is never to refer to any grandchildren or one's own children that are over 40! In this last V&A magazine (David Bowie on the cover) I read an article on famous fashion photographer Elsbeth Juda and suddenly recognised her from the photograph, as a lady I see often at my gym. I'd pigeon-holed her to being about 80 whereas in fact she's 101 and looks marvellous. I love the break-out list of what you propose doing. Great post!

Nicola Morgan said...

Hooray for you! Fly free but don't fly away.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

And I have to add what Judith Kerr said on Channel 4 News tonight just before her 90th birthday on illustrating children's books: 'I think I'm just discovering how to do this.'

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Thanks Nicola and Dianne I loved Judith Kerr's comments too

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Thanks Nicola and Dianne I loved Judith Kerr's comments too