I used to wonder why writing is – and has always been – very important to me. Expressing myself on paper has been vital for my very existence. It has kept me sane at times of great torment and it is the only thing I find personally fulfilling, regardless of what or to whom it is that I am communicating. Was I born this way or was it something that I learnt to enjoy?
My mother is a writer – a poet. She has self-published a book of poetry in Greek and had some of her work published in local and international (Greek) newspapers. Initially, I thought that my own need to write might be inherited; however, she is the only writer on her side of the family. So if it is inherited from her then it seems to have started with her.
I believe my mother has passed on to me some other qualities: compassion, strength and fairness. It is these attributes that led me to become a ‘healer’ and a legal studies student. Even though I have not pursued long-term careers in these areas, I am still interested in writing about my experiences. For example, as a law student I discovered that the law has very little to do with justice in the Western world and everything to do with wealth creation for governments and multi-national corporations. Thus my desire to write – outside of therapeutic journal writing – is largely related to educating people about what is really going on in the world. My mother, on the other hand, writes about her personal experiences and other peoples’ life stories. She is nowhere near as political, or as radical, as I am.
Even though my mother always encouraged me to write there were some negative experiences, which did have a much more profound effect on me. Her writing was a constant source of irritation for my father, since he felt she was neglecting her duties as a wife and mother, which she never did. My mother doted on him, always cooked, cleaned etc. He was afraid that she would run off with another writer or artist, so he always discouraged her. I later discovered that he had a few traumatic experiences with women before he met her and that his insecurities stemmed from this.
When he discovered that I wanted to be a writer, he was again very discouraging but this time for different reasons. I was constantly told that I couldn’t make a living out of writing – at best it was a hobby. He was trying to protect me, because he had experienced hunger as a child during the Second World War and he equated being an artist with starvation. He has told me many stories about the struggles during his childhood: how he and his family had to live on bread and water or milk for months on end, and how he wore the same pair of shoes until they were beyond repair.
My father’s words influenced my behavior by restricting me to writing only in my journal and for school. The anger that resulted from his lack of support didn’t surface until my early twenties when I began to understand how important it is for parents to encourage their children to fulfill their potential, rather than expecting them to fulfill their own unrealized dreams.
Even though my father wanted me to do well at school, he didn’t understand that writing and homework weren’t mutually exclusive. He is a traditional and practical man. He thought that I would get a well paid job after completing my degree, marry a professional man of some sort, have a few children while living somewhere in the suburbs of Melbourne. However, these are not my dreams. I am grateful to my teachers who encouraged me to write and even read some of my creative writing pieces in class, even though this was excruciatingly embarrassing for me.
All of these experiences left me with many conflicting messages about being a writer: fear of starvation, praise, lack of emotional support, attention and embarrassment. Consequently, I didn’t learn to enjoy writing during my formative years as it was something that represented struggle for me.
This inner conflict ended when I attended the Darebin Writer’s Festival (Melbourne Australia) in 2004. On that day I could see myself in the writers presenting their work. I could relate to the look of exhilaration on their faces – they seemed fulfilled. This rendered my father’s thoughts on writing and even my own thoughts about where this desire originated, irrelevant. After many years of trying to find fulfillment in other areas I realized that I am, and always have been, a writer.
© New Age Power (Helen Papadopoulos)
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