Friday, 18 December 2009

Yes, I really AM a qualified bricklayer

Tis true, and somewhere I have a City and Guilds certificate to prove it. I took the course because I wanted to build a very long, low retaining wall with three sets of steps in the large sloping garden of my previous house. I couldn't afford to pay someone to do it for me, so the only alternative was to do it myself. Which on the surface I suppose shows determination, persistence and a willingness for hard labour - all admirable qualities. But I know it really shows lack of confidence and a need for reassurance - I'd read a book and could see that what I wanted to do wasn't that difficult but had to get the support from a teacher that I could do it.

I think a lot of people - women especially - come to writing classes for the same reasons. They want to learn, but they also need the support of a group that, yes, they can do it. It's as if we need permission before we can risk ourselves. The first time I went to a writing class I was terrified, although if you'd asked me, I couldn't have said what dreadful things could possibly happen in the space of two hours in a community centre on a Friday morning.

Fear of the unknown holds us back from sharing our work, from sending it in to a competition, from sending it out to agents. We worry that if we reveal too much of ourselves through our writing people won't like what they see. We are frightened of the invisible editor on our shoulder - who may have the face of a parent, or a former teacher - who tells us that our work isn't good enough. Fear stops us from doing and achieving but we should feel the fear and do it anyway because, as I discovered, bricklaying may be hard physical work but it's actually quite easy.

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