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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Why we write...and why we should never give up!


When I was at high school in the early 70s, I was the only person in my class who owned a typewriter. When I say typewriter, I mean a big, black metal thingy that took up most of the desk, It had flat black keys lettered in off-white, (They were white once, but years of usage had taken its toll.) a rubber roll thing at the top which facilitated the movement of the paper upwards, a slender gap in which to feed in the paper, and a chrome carriage return. I remember the paint used to chip off of it if I got too vigorous with my typing, and sometimes the keys would get stuck in the middle, sort of tangled up with each other, and it would take me ages to extricate each key. I wrote all my exam course work on it, and I truly believe I got better grades because I could type, and because everything looked neater than my classmates work.

Each piece I typed I treated like a journalistic article. It makes me laugh when I think of it, but the sense of satisfaction it gave me was enormous. In the winter I would sit in my room huddled up with loads of cardigans or with a blanket wrapped around me and feel like I was achieving something. My room was at the very far end of a house that everyone said was like a train. I suppose it was like a train. It was a converted hat factory, and yes, it was very long.

It was in this room at the end of our house that I wrote my first story. And on that very typewriter. Of course, I'd written stories since childhood, but the first one written here was when I discovered how serious I was about becoming a writer. I could think of nothing else. It was all I wanted.

When our local paper had a careers open day, I went with my mum to discuss with a journalist what I needed to do to be taken on; the qualifications I needed, which were the best colleges in which to learn my trade. The conversation was very short. "Girls aren't taken on as journalists," said the careers guy. "Oh, well," said my mum. "You'll have to do something else." That was the beginning and ending of my journalistic career. It's probably the shortest story ever written.

Recently, I read an article about some of the reasons why people feel the need to write. And for some of us, I do believe it is a need. I've heard said that anyone can write a book, that completing a story, or even a full novel is about getting words on the page in the right order. (Isn't that the challenge?) Consequently, it should be within most people's capabilities to write something of fiction, or a factual piece based on someone's knowledge of a subject. Every subject under the sun is written about. Everywhere we look, there are words that someone somewhere has written. Advertisements, street signs, maps, price tags, menus, birthday cards, cards for anything. School reports, invitations, the list is endless. It got me thinking.

Writing is actually one of the most important things about being human. Writing, and reading. What a privilege. How lucky we are that we have the capability not only to read and write, but to create? This is why I feel about writing the way I do, and why when the journalist guy said girls couldn't be journalists I wouldn't give up. Every job I have had since that day required writing and creating. So I feel I proved him wrong. How I would love to send him my books. And it would be to say, 'told you so.' I don't mind admitting it.

Is there something someone said you couldn't or shouldn't do? Did you believe them and let it change your life, or did you do it anyway? I'd love to know.

Love Valentina xxx

4 comments:

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

When I was in college, a TA whom I went to for help asked me, "Why do you want a degree, anyway? You're just going to get married and have a family." This was in the late sixties. He made me so mad that I determined then and there that nothing was going to stop me from finishing college with my degree.

Thankfully things have changed since those days, but I think it's sad that your mom supported the suggestion that you couldn't go into journalism because you were a girl. I agree with you that for some people, writing is a real need, and hats off to you that you came back to it and persevered.

Valentina Hepburn said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. And well done to you for forging ahead with your dream. Things have changed thankfully, but I think there's room for improvement, even now.

Richard Hughes said...

Kudos for not giving up. Women are doing everything today, thanks to people like you (and Elizabeth).

Valentina Hepburn said...

Hi, Richard, It's so tempting to give up when everything seems against us, and things aren't falling into place. Then a little nugget of hope shines in and gives us the push we need to continue with our dream. Lovely to hear from you. Hope all is well.

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