So back to writing. Let’s look at catharsis. I began writing poems and stories at a young age. In Zimbabwe we had writing competitions that were called, wait for it, given I now live in Wales: Eisteddfods! These must have been instigated by Welsh pioneers (can I still use that word?). Through these poems and stories I was able to exorcise the monsters of my imagination. At other times I wrote poems about cats. Because, though I loved them, I was allergic to them. Thus, in writing I got to excavate as well as celebrate.
It is the excavation I am going to dwell on here. As a young child, I quite literally lived in my imagination. I was a solitary kid that did not make friends until I was six, when Caroline from down the road became my best friend. I grew up during the war for independence in Zimbabwe. There were attacks by the ‘terrs’ – terrorists - bombs going off in the city and people being shot away on the farms. Growing up in a fractured family where all sorts of things were going on under the carpet, there was plenty of material to deal with, and deal with it I did, through constructing imaginary worlds where the monsters were dispelled. I devoured Enid Blyton books and then recreated the narratives for myself and played them out in the trees in our garden. I often recreated my own world, often imagining a place where adults did not exist. I would imagine being rescued in a small sports car driven by Anthony Puffleadies (that’s the phonetic spelling of the Greek name of a blonde, blue-eyed boy who was to rescue me from the world I lived in and take me to another, more civilised place ruled by small people; I was in KG2 at the time, as I recall).
Narratives: changing and constructing narratives began early and have remained with me. As I grew up, the imaginings, poems and stories developed into the keeping of journals where all sorts of thoughts and feelings were worked out: a cathartic exercise I still engage in, thought the keeping of a daily diary stopped when I began to write ‘seriously’ in my thirties and was published for the first time – as a journalist, and later as an author. When I became a Jesus believer in my early thirties, I began keeping prayer diaries, in which I worked out what I believed and what I didn’t. I find that writing literally helps me to work things out – out of my system. When I taught writing to women that were in recovery, I taught them to write ‘unsent letters,’ letters to people that had hurt them that were burnt, ripped into small pieces or screwed up and thrown into the waste paper bin. I practised this technique myself – via email – but this is a dangerous practise on more than one occasion I have accidentally sent them – usually to my mother. Stick to paper for this technique.
All of these outlets help. I could not have got through my life without the transforming power of my pen. I have ‘writed’ all sorts of wrongs through my writing, from the personal (former family events that have been painful) to the socio-political – in #AftertheRains. When I studied psychoanalysis I discovered what I was doing with what mysteriously floated up fro the depths to the surface of my imagination, was called ‘displacement.’ Placing people and events where I felt they belonged, can have the effect of these events actually happened. Bonkers, but true. One can really write life ‘true,’ true for you: true, as things should be. Authentic writing always holds painful truths in its fascinating amber.