I’ve been trying to identify the driving force behind my writing.
It is not an easy thing to do when you have been writing for so long.
In fact, in trying to identify this I’ve come to realise that it has changed, and perhaps will continue to change.
Perhaps this is the way for all writers?
What I do know is that what started out for me as a means of self-expression, as a shy teenager, has developed into much more than that. At the root of it is a love of words, of what they mean, of what a person can do with them, and a need to speak without boundaries.
There’s a sense of the uninhibited with writing, a freedom and liberty. There are no rules, no constraints, no right or wrong way, and maybe this is why so many of us do it. I think you know you’re at home with something when it makes you smile as you’re doing it. That is how writing is for me – it makes me smile from ear to ear. When I am writing, I am at my happiest and become completely absorbed in it.
Writing poetry is my first love though, beginning when I was around nine or ten and gradually building up until I dared myself to enter a couple of competitions. I was a runner-up in both and had a short piece of writing published as a result. So even though I now predominantly write books for children, which I also love doing, I regularly return to writing poetry.
Probably the most influential poets for me have been Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, Spike Milligan, Thomas Hardy and Leonard Cohen, although my all time favourite poem is ‘A Blade of Grass’ by Brian Patten. Another favourite is ‘Remember me when I am gone away’ by Christina Rossetti, which my mum bought for me in a lovely little book form twenty one years ago.
This natural leaning towards poetry has influenced my other writing greatly.
My children’s stories, most recently the Ruby and Grub series, tend to have a lyrical quality, with hidden rhymes and words that fit together in a way that makes them almost meld.
From Grub in Love: ‘But Grub wouldn’t dig. Do you know what he did?’ Or there’s: ‘Joe covered his eyes – I have no idea why.’
Nothing must jar or seem unnatural. If there is a break of rhythm, the poet in me cringes against it. Sometimes, I have to let that go and remind myself that these are stories, not poems.
Ironically though, and surprisingly, I am now also finding that my story writing is affecting my poetry, and wonder if other writers of multiple genres find the same thing happening.
This is a new experience for me, and a pleasant one. I find I can now approach my poems from a different angle, creating a story within a story, looking at layers within the poem, taking out chunks and re-writing others as I might do with scenes from a story.
This change seemed to occur as I embarked on a series of longer books for slightly older children, where I had to hone my plotting skills. I began to see what was missing in poems that I had once felt were complete.
Needless to say, my newer poems, and re-writes of older ones, have taken on a different edge.
Amazingly, as a result of this, I was a runner up in this year’s Thynks Poetry competition with a poem called ‘Traeth Cerrig’, and have just had a poem, ‘Buried Treasures’, published by Crystal Clear Creators in Volume 4 of Hearing Voices, and have a poem, ‘Silverfish’ scheduled for a forthcoming Staple magazine.
Clearly, this shift, although unplanned, is a welcome one.
Writing more than one genre, I realise, is not for everyone, but it’s something I really enjoy. It allows me to use language in different ways. With children’s stories and adult novels, I can focus on plot threads and character development and build a whole different world.
With poems, the focus is on capturing a moment, a time or place, building layers, patterns, rhythm and sound. There’s a searching and analysis needed to unearth the meaning, or meanings, in a poem, which I like. It’s almost like a piece of trickery – a poem is often not what it at first seems.
Whatever I write I thoroughly enjoy, and a move from one genre to another is part of the challenge and excitement for me. Because writing is exciting, very exciting. As a child I always wanted to be able to fly and would often dream of flying. Writing gives me my wings and lets me fly, and of all the things I write, for me, my poems fly the highest.
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