Even as a child, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote an endless amount of poems and stories about wolves and horses. I also read a lot, and if I liked a particular author, I would hunt down every book, every item they had ever written. But to me personally, the writing game is tricky. I often get very lost and confused about what is good writing and what makes a good writer.
I am a bad speller, and I was punished quite a lot during primary school for failing spelling tests. During play and lunch times, I used to have to write out over and over again the words that I had spelled incorrectly. The other kids noticed that I was held back and used to make fun of me. I was teased about my bad spelling and my dream to be a writer was ridiculed – “You can’t be a writer if you can’t spell!”
Growing up, I met other people who aspired to be, or were, writers. Their intellect and their expansive vocabularies intimidated me. The way they viewed the world and the way that they articulated what they saw and felt left me dumbfounded. I would ask myself questions like, “Why didn’t I think of those words to describe that experience, to describe that feeling?” I guess this is when I started to identify “good” writers. They were people who could attach words to experiences that they had, who had the ability to transport me into their stories – people who had the ability to make me see things from a different point of view.
However, I had low self-esteem, so once I identified the good writers, I gave up; I threw in the metaphorical towel. I can’t do it like they do, I thought, I can’t be a writer if I can’t write like them.
At the age of twenty-six, I became pregnant. I was halfway across the world, away from my friends, my family, and my home. Pregnancy was a strange, alienating, and lonely time for me. I spent long days sitting and drawing in my tiny workman’s cottage in Cardiff. I struggled with my artwork, as I didn’t know how to express this experience, this transformation, within me. So secretly, I began to write again. Most of it was written in the second person point of view, about the bad things people had done to me in the past. I think second person is a very accusatory way to write, and it was a great way to vent out the angst I experienced during my early twenties. But then, I had the experience of birth, which was the most horrific, brutal experience I had ever had. (I won’t go into details, as I’ve written about it on my blog, Berlin Domestic.) After I had recovered from it and was learning about life with a small baby, I found that I had a lot more to say. I had a lot more to write about.
With this new-found voice, and my new-found confidence, I realized all the other stuff that had been holding me back, was not important. I don’t need to be a good speller; I have spellcheck, and when my spelling is especially bad (which I assure you, is quite often the case), I have friends who point it out for me – sometimes they even edit it! (Thanks Emily Dawson!) Everyone has a unique way of perceiving the world; we all experience it differently, and everyone’s perception is just as valid as the next person’s, including mine.
Follow Lily Mae on Twitter: @lilymaemartin
Category: Australian Women Writers, Being a Writer, Contemporary Women Writers, Expatriate Writers, On Writing, What Inspired Your Book, Women and Family, Women and Writing, Women Writer Artists, Women Writers, Writing with Children
About the Author (Author Profile)
Lily Mae Martin is an Australian born visual artist. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2008,
upon which she was awarded the Lionel Gell Traveling Scholarship and subsequently moved to Berlin, where her practice is currently
The basis of Lily’s style grew from a strong focus on human anatomy and etching styles, however traveling hindered her ability to access a
press. She subsequently developed a technique to replicate the printmaking style using felt tipped ink pens; building up layers and
layers of line to create tone and form. More recently her practice has swung toward a focus on oil painting and portraiture. Although Lily
states that her intention is not to unsettle the viewer, she portrays people in an honest, raw and emotional way that often has been
described as “confronting” and “brutally beautiful”.
Influences include Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud.