I’ve never had much of what some people call a career. But I did have an open mind, a sense of humour and opportunities.
I wrote my first song – a three-chord, minor-key ditty called Go For It – when I was 13, in Mr Fry’s music class. He told me the lyrics were obscure. After looking the word up in the dictionary I decided that ‘obscure’ meant ‘poetic’ and I stuck with it. I wrote songs for my teenage bands to perform, thinking someday they might be heard on a larger stage. Since then I’ve found countless obscure things to write about and different lenses through which to view them.
Music was the thread that connected the disparate segments of my life. It was there when I focused on the other arts; it was there when I sought professional surety by learning a trade; it was even there when I completely drifted away from the palpable joys of creating music. And through it all I was grateful for its gifts.
When I was well into my thirties and a single father of a six-month old boy, I began journaling. What I wrote wasn’t particularly worth reading; I wrote to purge, to understand. I wrote because there weren’t enough people in my life to listen to me speak. But I didn’t write for my words to be read. In fact Ms Daniel, my grade 9 English teacher – and a colleague of Mr Fry’s – told me in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t write.
‘I know what you’re trying to say,’ she told me one day after school when I’d challenged her about an assignment. ‘But somewhere between your brain and your pen the thoughts get muddled. In some cases they don’t make any sense at all.’
Eventually the journaling and purging had reached 30,000 words and began to whisper hints at being a book. To this point I’d rarely written so much as a letter to my grandmother, avoiding any occasion in which I might be expected to express myself on the page. I hardly ever read a book let alone tried to write one.
I told people I’d never written anything in my life, but that wasn’t true. I’d written some songs. So armed with a new sense of belief aided by the Creative Writing MA program at City University London, I completed the memoir, Immortal Highway. And I started to call myself a writer.
Since then, I’ve facilitated memoir-writing workshops, worked as an editor, proofreader, copywriter and memoir-writing coach.
Then, deep into my forties, I started writing songs again and I knew I had discovered the long-dormant natural fit of creative expression. And I had a lifetime to write about with, perhaps, less obscure results than when I was 13. Enter A World Without Corners.
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up but I am still creating things. To me writing is about the creation. Interpretation is up to others.
Photo by Luke Archer