Hello: I’m Susan and I’m recovering from being terrified of writing. Yet I’m now in the final of the UK Blog Awards! How on earth have I recovered? Well as with everything worthwhile, it has involved pain, hard work, focus and vision.
I was at a highly academic girls’ school and was very good at English. I loved reading, writing, telling stories. In my first year I came top of the year. But it all started to go wrong when I had a vile teacher: Mrs M, who sapped any creativity and enjoyment from the subject. In that year I dropped from top to BOTTOM of the year in English. As a way of humiliating me, I had to go to the front of the class to collect my ‘unsatisfactory’ exam paper. At thirteen I fought crying by holding my breath and collapsed at the front of the class in shock. My only recollection is of her screaming at me to get up and stop “messing around” whilst poking me with her pointy shoes.
Although I had another, lovely teacher in Form 3, I then had her for my O Levels. I was paralysed with fear writing anything; I would always score 4/10 and despite every effort to ‘improve’ I eventually had writer’s block. My father would write the homework for me – and also be awarded 4/10 with no comment next to it. Her winning punch was when she insisted I attend the teachers’ consultations in Form 5. These affairs, held in the school hall, had 90 girls, their parents and the teachers in attendance. Mrs M launched into a vicious attack, screaming insults that I was “A disgrace to the school”, “A good for nothing”, “Shameful” etc. Slowly the busy event became silent and everyone watched and listened to the drama whilst I slowly disintegrated onto the floor. I passed my O Level English and despite the school recommending I took A Level, I not only didn’t take English but also escaped by moving to another school.
Memories like this are hard to shake off. I studied Geography at an elite university, but always felt anxious about my written work, despite reassurances from my tutors. At Music College, my dissertation was awarded a prize and the commendations I had from the college were amazing, but all I could hear was “You are a disgrace”. At my first teaching job, I would be so anxious about writing the reports that I would spend hours writing them with neutral comments, worried that I’d be “A disgrace” or make a mistake. In subsequent jobs, I would always have very positive comments about my report writing (in business not teaching), but would block these great comments from my mind.
Fast forward to 2000; my son had been born and the NCT asked me to write about my birthing experience. Gulp: I’m going to be a disgrace! But I wrote a short article and people loved it. It made them smile. It made them laugh. Friends started to tell me that I was a great story teller. I then set up a book group for Mothers with young children, to support my love of reading. Although it took 4 years for me to feel confident enough to share a constructive opinion on a book, I rediscovered my passion for reading.
I then discovered blogging in 2008 for my business. I would comment on people’s communication skills or ideas on a blog and it was great fun. I started to find MY voice – which wasn’t a ‘disgrace’. I have guest blogged on various sites and amazingly The We Are the City network invited me to write for their amazing network, which was awesome.
Life has a funny way of revisiting situations, and in 2012 I was at my son’s school, at a parent’s evening. The set up was similar to those at my school; parents and teachers, but no pupils. I suddenly had a terrible flashback of me as a 15 year old and the entire room coming to a standstill as I was verbally abused by an appalling teacher. Thank goodness my son’s school doesn’t have monsters like Mrs M. But if it did, I would be the first person to tell her to stop.
But this brings me to the here and now. Tomorrow I’m attending the finals of the UK Blog Awards. My blogs for Viva Live Music and Executive Voice are in the finals of the awards. I’m in the finals with professional writers and well known brands and marketing companies. It is a wonderful feeling that my writing is in the finals. Yes. Me. That disgrace. I’ve been really lucky because some people have really supported me to find my voice including We are the City. But I’ve also realised that the “disgrace” wasn’t me, but you Mrs M.