Reflections On National Writing Day 2023

It’s Gaynor here. I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and community recently. It’s Wednesday which – on twitter – used to be our regular #RetweetWest day, where we ask people to share any writing successes. Sometimes people share a publication, or a competition listing, and sometimes people would make little jokes like ‘well I opened my notebook and stared at it!’ or similar. I still run #RetweetWest day at the end of the month (although I’ve been that busy I may have forgotten last month 👀) but lately I’ve been thinking about this idea of shouting about ‘success.’

When I started writing, success – on any level – didn’t even cross my mind. Quick version of my life from say 2012 to 2017: I did a bit of writing, developed generalised anxiety disorder, stopped writing, had a baby, developed post-natal depression, started writing again. It’s so easy to write it like that, but of course it was one of the most difficult times in my life.

In late 2017, I remember looking at my toddler daughter and saying out loud ‘what can I do to make you proud of me?’ Having PND had made me feel like a failure (it shouldn’t have, but shame is a tricky beast to tame) and I just wanted to feel good at something. I had also very much lost myself in sleepless nights and A and E visits and endless washing, and all of the things that frequently come with having a small child. I didn’t know who I was. But maybe I could be a writer?

I think I enrolled in every writing course I could find from 2017 to 2018! Some suited me more than others, but what fundamentally pulled me to certain groups or teachers was … they were nice. No snobbery, no gatekeeping, no judgement. I’m a nice person anyway (honest) but I carried that ethos forward with me once I felt in a position to offer writing workshops, or feedback or support. I found a kindred spirit in Amanda and felt immediately at home at Retreat West, even more so once we started up our lovely community.

So yes, I do think it’s important to shout about those quantifiable successes, but I want to shout about so much more too. Well done to everyone who writes just because they want to, because it gives them pleasure, because it makes them feel something. Well done if you write every day or once a month or in any snippet of time you can find. Well done if you’re writing something just for you, or your family, or to find your way back to yourself.

I’m finding it increasingly hard not to compare my writing career with others at the moment so I need to stop and remember why I started it, and why I still do it. Success is very nice of course, but it’s the cherry on the cake, an idiom which – according to the definition I just hastily googled – means  something that makes something that is already good even better, or perfect ❤️