I totally get my life advice from Sister Act 1 & 2. Who doesn't?!
Have you seen Sister Act 2? If not, stop reading this blog at once and find a copy, because your life is lacking. Once you've witnessed the perfection of Lauryn Hill, pre-Fugees, giving a bunch of nuns some serious sass, come back and we'll talk.
Okay, I'm now assuming you've all seen it, so...
There's a point in Sister Act 2, where Whoopi Goldberg's character, Deloris (or Sister Mary Clarence) is sitting at a piano with two of the students she teaches. One of the students is a girl named Rita (Lauryn Hill). She wants to be a singer more than anything else in the world, but her strict mother has told her that she has to focus on her studies and give up on such a silly dream. She's meant to be a member of the school choir, but her mother has forbidden her to attend. Whoopi tells her "if you wake up in the morning and you can't think of anything but singing first, then you're supposed to be a singer, girl." Aw, very touching. But the line before that is the one that I've remembered for the last twenty one years, since I first watched the film.
"If you wake up in the morning and you can think of nothing but writing... Then you're a writer."
Now, I'm not going to lie to you. 90% of the time, my first thought when I wake up in the morning is "OH HELL NO, DON'T MAKE ME GET UP! I LOVE MY DUVET! NO, PLEASE NOOOOOO!!" But the quote still means something to me. And that's because writing has given me something that nothing else in the world ever has.
And I don't just mean a chance to practise my autograph...
When I write, it's a way of expressing myself. I can use the words to paint a picture and hold it up for the world to see. These are my thoughts; this is what I have to say. Even when I'm writing fiction - even children's fiction - it's still a small part of myself that I'm giving to the world. Because it comes from inside. It comes from my thoughts, my experiences and my imagination. Even if I write something that's a million miles away from who I am as a person off the page, it's still a part of me, because I wrote it.
Words are such incredible, powerful things. We use them every day without even thinking about it. But when you sit down to write - be it a chapter of a novel, or a blog entry or even just an email - suddenly you're thinking about almost every word you say. You're playing around with language to make it work for you. If I want a character to seem angry, then the words I pick become spikier and the way I punctuate changes. If I'm writing a blog entry that I hope will be funny, then I think about what makes me laugh and I choose my phrasing accordingly.
I get ridiculously annoyed by text speak and I hate to see anyone writing "lyk dis" unless it's in a highly ironic sense. Why? Because words are so important to me. And yes, I know, language changes and evolves all the time and perhaps as a writer, I should embrace the fact that people are forming their own language, but... Well, damnit, it hurts my eyes.
There's so much I love about writing. I love that I can use this blog to share some of my thoughts and opinions with the world. I love that I can write a story for a child and know that I've made them smile, or think a little about something they might not have considered before. I love that I can lose myself in a scene I'm writing for my novel to such an extent that I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about what will happen next. To me, those characters are real and they're important and I care about what happens to them. I care about doing them justice.
I guess what I'm saying is, to me, writing isn't just a little hobby I have. It's how I express myself and in many ways, it's how I define myself. It's what I'm often thinking about when I'm doing other things. I can be wandering around a supermarket and suddenly have a flash of inspiration as to how to end a chapter I've been working on. Or I'll be ranting about something on Twitter and suddenly think "I NEED to blog about this!"
Writing may not necessarily be the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, but it's on my mind throughout the day and it's quite often the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. I'd like to think that would be good enough for Sister Mary Clarence.
Sure, I get annoyed with my writing. I hate it when I suffer writer's block and can't think of a single thing worth saying. And I have moments where I write something, read it back and immediately hate it and assume that I must be the worst writer who has ever lived. It's when I have those thoughts that I smile to myself (after a long period of dramatic angst...) and realise that I only feel that way because I care so much about getting it right.
I may never be the best writer on the planet. Who knows, my three published books for children may be the only books I ever have published. But I'll carry on, just the same. Because whatever happens, I will always be a writer.