What a great way to start a Monday! Logging into my Facebook this morning a quote came up on my newsfeed from Anne Lamott: ‘Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts‘.
When you have just sat down at your computer to start a hopeful day of writing, this is an empowering thing to read. It doesn’t matter if you have an idea that you feel confident about, the bare bones of a concept or whether you have no idea how your piece is going to begin or end. The important thing is that you have sat down to write something. That’s the other half of the quote: ‘You have to start somewhere‘.
One of my posts last week was about free writing, a great place to start if you have sat down with the intention to write and suddenly your mind has gone blank. It’s all about getting the ideas in your head into words, then getting those words out of your head on to the page. That’s why free writing with old fashioned pen and paper is still my favourite. I really feel connected to what I am writing then, and I have a mental image of the words flowing from my brain, down my arm, through my hand and on to the page.
Reading this quote this morning got me thinking about where I came from as a writer and storyteller. Like a lot of creative folk I started when I was very young. I was fortunate to have one of those grandfathers who would sit you on his knee and tell you stories. He set my friends and I in the centre of traditional fairy tales and suddenly we were the heroes of our own stories. I’m surprised that I never thought about were my interest in storytelling came from until now. For as long as I can remember, and for as long as I have been able to write, I have been scribbling short stories. I added illustrations too, but I was (and still am) a terrible artist. So I started writing long pieces of description, I suppose hoping that the words would paint the picture as I was persistently unable to do so myself.
I really came across poetry quite by accident. Of course I knew lots of nursery rhymes and made up a few myself, but they lacked any form, style or structure. Another girl in the village were I grew up went to a primary school near mine and our parents would car share. One day we were discussing our various homework assignments and my friend had been told to write a limerick for her history class. She wrote one on Anne Boleyn (it was very good) and I decided that I wanted to write one too for my history homework on the Second World War. After that I was hooked and most of my future history homework landed on the teacher’s desk with a poem attached.
I thought in light of the quote I read this morning I would share my terrible first effort. It is about Adolf Hitler, looking at it as an adult understatement does not cover how I described him as a character or the conditions and atrocities of the war as a whole. I hope that you will bare in mind as you read it that I was 9 when I wrote it. But as awful a poem as it is, it is the very first one I wrote and it sparked a love for poetry and writing. Therefore very significant and sentimental to me.
Hitler was mean,
Hitler was bad,
He made us very
He marched into Poland,
He marched into France,
He led the whole of Europe
In a merry dance.
The Allies won the war,
The Nazis lost,
50 million lost their lives,
It was a terrible cost.