Communicating with (and from) ourselves

Here is my thought (or question) for today: How does our writing communicate ourselves?  For 30 years I have been writing non-fiction books on educational issues – mainly about children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. My writing has been based on personal opinion, underpinned by extensive research and the governmental policy from which those opinions have been formed. My readership has been teachers, Teaching Assistants, and latterly, parents. My current cause is to encourage parents to become more involved in their child’s education so that all children, especially those with SEND, achieve what they are fully capable of achieving. This aspect of my writing aims to impart confidence in all parents to communicate better with the educational professionals who support their child. This, many parents tell me, can be quite scary.

Back to me as a writer. I have always wanted to write fiction. In 1996 I was shortlisted for the (then) Catherine Cookson Historical Novel award, and in 2001, I won first prize at the Winchester writing festival for a children’s story. I have also had three short stories published in magazines. So why have I not built on these fictional examples of success? Because once my non-fiction door opened (about 1996), I found myself in a writing world where the rewards for my efforts were more highly probable and clear-cut. From pitch to contract, writing to a deadline, hence to publication (and payment), had become a cosy pattern, albeit one that was enjoyable, and that fuelled my cause. So the fiction writing became smothered.

I am now trying to rekindle my fiction writing but finding it immensely difficult. The barrier is – me.  I am out of my (non-fiction) comfort zone and floundering along a writing path that I am not familiar with, one that has many twists and turns. Which turn do I take? Yesterday I attended an excellent workshop, during which we did exercises to stretch our writing muscles and I found myself writing in bizarre ways from various stimuli. One question posed by our tutor – ‘What have you learned this year about your writing?’ My response to this was that my fiction writing needs to stem from deep inside me; from the inner self that I do not visit often enough, and that I do not know very well. But it takes confidence to explore and bring out our inner selves for public display. That is, and always has been, what I struggle with: writing as a communication of myself. Placing myself out there – where there is judgement and evaluation (even though my non-fiction books received excellent reviews), is often scary.

So, next month is National Novel Writing Month, during which many writers will be signing up or at least making a personal pact to write at least 50,000 words in a month. I cannot (yet) imagine writing a novel again. So I can at least aim to write, from my inner self, a given number of new words every day and see where this writing takes me. Hopefully, it may point the way to a novel, more short stories, poems, or children’s writing. Who knows? But the point is that it will have opened up more than one writing pathway and offered me an additional dimension to the writing that I still do for parents, about which I am still passionate and committed. Like many of the parents for whom I write, I too need to develop the confidence to leap into an area (fiction) that I find daunting.

So here goes: from the first of November I have set myself a target of at least 1000 words a day in total to write a balance of fiction and non- fiction in whatever form it happens (including these blogs). It won’t make the 50,000 per month, but I need to be realistic with myself, as I am one of those people who constantly make goals that I can’t keep because they are too ambitious.

These (almost 700) words have taken about an hour and a half, so I need to move fast. Wish me luck. And good luck out there to all of you who are undertaking the NANOWRIMO challenge.

Sylvia Edwards


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