My Passion for Writing

For a long time I did not realise I was a born writer because it was part of me. It was innate. What we do effortlessly we take for granted. That does not mean that we don’t need to learn the rules of grammar and the way the language we are born into works. I learned all that at my grammar school and very good it was too. One of the many things that worry me about education today is that this important area of knowledge has grown weaker and weaker due to government interference especially in comprehensive schools.

Many people, because they have learned the technique of writing, think that writing books is easy. We who can do it know better [you can’t say that! – Ed]. Since I first came across spoken and written words they were my main interest. I read avidly from the time I was four years old. All good writers do that without realising they are learning at the same time. We cannot find our own individual style if we haven’t taken in, quite unconsciously, all the styles of the books that we chose to read. They have provided me with the tools of the trade.

The same is true of artists and all other kinds of creative activities. Without knowing what we are doing, the words and phrases that appeal to us stick in our memories. We also notice everything that is going on around us. We remember what particularly catches our fancy.

I used to tell stories to my little sister when we were in bed at night. She usually fell asleep before I had finished. I always had vivid dreams that often took the frame of stories and have gone on all my life. Quite often, especially when I am working on one thing, like my PhD for instance, I have woken up in the middle of the night with new ideas. I usually get up and write them down immediately, in case I might have forgotten before morning dawns.

I liked to make a miniature theatre out of an old shoe box, paint a backcloth, dress up tiny china dolls for the cast and write the script. This took place when I was eight to ten years old. All the material came from my reading and my habit of noticing and listening to snatches of conversation.

All this material in my head was of immense help in my work as a psychotherapist. I was never at a loss for what to say to my clients and how to respond to them. So far I have had three books published about my therapy work. I have written several fictional short srories but have not published them. I am now on the brink of writing more fiction after I have completed several books related to my research, including this one.

One of the advantages of old age for writers is that, as long as we remain well enough, both physically and even more important mentally, we have plenty of time to do exciting work in our own comfortable homes. My son and daughter encouraged me to write my autobiography in this particular form because I have had a varied and unusual life. I learned to cope with disappointment and set- backs which are inevitable. This is the case when we are undertaking new ventures that provide valuable information for all creative people who are constantly feeling their way into the best work they can do. At the same time I aim to express myself clearly so that I am getting my special ideas across to those who are looking for new ways of writing and thinking. It is also very important that there is an element of humour and entertainment. That is the best kind of serious writing; otherwise it is easy to fall into a bog of boredom.



Take it, Break it and Make Something New

A paraphrase of Shakespeare:

To do or not to do
Whether it is better to suffer what is thrown at you
Or to take action against a sea of boredom.

The lady client who couldn’t stop crying in my piece “ Fun in Therapy” was just putting up with her misery. It hadn’t occurred to her that she could deal with whatever it was that was bothering her in a different way. People like this are in a state of stuck-insidedness, and that condition arises in every case because of a fear of others one way or another.

I use the phrase “thrown at you” meaning that such beings simply let outside happenings get them down, in other words they “take in”. First, they need to break up the old pattern they have got used to and when that has been broken, the final step is to take action and try to do something different, such as bringing her weeping to a stop.

Many people make the mistake of offering sympathy to weepers. That is not what they need. No-one else can make us feel better. That is a necessary job for the self-disturbed person to deal with. Another brilliant quote from Shakespeare is:

Diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliances are relieved.

What we all want to do is to be able to look after ourselves by learning to think properly. In my early days as a therapist, one of my biggest mistakes with a client was to feel sorry for him. He twice tried to commit suicide but he made sure he would be found and taken to hospital. Like a fool, I twice visited him there. I made the mistake that because this man had completed a PhD I felt sure that he must be able to find a job in his field. His bank refused to lend him a small sum of money to get him started with a business to which he seemed well-suited . He was turned down. I lent him the money.

After some two years he wanted to come and see me again. “Are you bringing a cheque with you?” Of course he said he had not. He still wanted help. I sent him off with a flea in his ear.

Feeling sorry for other people was what originally aroused my interest in psychotherapy. I am still interested in the subject but I no longer work with people. I do research, write books and occasionally paint pictures instead.

Whilst I was a therapist I had plenty of free time to see a lot of my daughter and her two sons. I took them for holidays and I saw them every week until they were grown-up. My family is not just a family. They are my best friends because we all have much in common, quite the opposite of the family into which I was born. I am often surprised by friends who comment on how good a mother I must have been. Not at all!

I always did what I wanted to do first and I never tried to teach my children anything, except for a few basic rules and good manners such as going to bed on time and looking after their own bedrooms. They could do what they liked there, within reasonable limits, but they knew they must not mess up the family’s living rooms, kitchen and bathroom. The greatest bonus to me was the fun we all had and still have when we get together. I couldn’t have better friends. They were always doing and making things that interested them. As they grew up and became the people their genes designed them to be it was always a pleasure to see each other.

My friend Jerry Planus always said “Put yourself first. Never do anything you don’t want to do, unless it is essential for your own well being. He had a favourite proverb: “Why do you hate me? I haven’t helped you.” Do too much for people and you deprive them of their ability to do things for themselves.

Do you want to be a skivvy or a victim or a martyr? No. Of course not.

When I had my gallery shop in King’s Parade I employed two or three assistants. One of them never stopped working. When I made morning or afternoon tea she usually said “I don’t have time to drink it. I’ve got too much to do.”

That made me sound like a slave-driver. On the contrary, there was not a lot to do. She made work for herself, doing things like dusting or arranging things in a way that was unnecessary. She was determined to work every minute. Of course there was a reason for this. She had a very demanding mother who planted this habit in her when she was a child. She had made an unnecessary martyr of herself that was hard to ignore.

If you have a habit that annoys other people and probably yourself as well, you can deal with the problem by following these three steps:

  1. identify the bad habit
  2. break it up
  3. make something new.



We Do Best What We Like Best

The best kind of teaching is what we teach ourselves. Just as an acorn will grow into an oak tree and no other kind of tree, so we are all born with the seeds that we call genes. They make us who we are as we grow older. For example, painters, writers and teachers learn from within themselves. There is a long held mistaken belief that we can mould our children into what we want them to be. My husband’s mother came from Belgium and never learned English well. She often said to other people “Je ferais de Bobby medicin”, or “Je ferais de Bobby avocat”. She did not have the power to make him a doctor or a lawyer nor could anyone else. There have always been unhappy people who have been forced to do what they do not have the capacity to do. I cannot but believe, from my lifetime’s observation of all the people I came across, that there are many of us who construct false impressions of ourselves because we are afraid no-one will like us unless we “fit in”.

Despite what Bob’s mother tried to tell him, he was very much his own self and did not hesitate to tell anything but the truth as he saw it His strongest suits were brought to light by his unusual sense of humour: he had an uncanny way of spotting pretentions in people he had never met before. From everything he told me I gathered that he must have been a born soldier with his ability to lead and make decisions. He always said those years were very good for him, much more so than being a teacher or working in a big company.

Bob was the only one in our family who had no interests that filled him with enthusiasm. In that sense he was an outsider in a very close family. This had the effect of making him far too dependent on us, especially upon me. He had some great qualities but somehow he never was able to find an interest just for himself alone. He wasn’t at all interested in psychotherapy but nevertheless he wanted to help me, often in a way that was far from useful. In the last letter he left for us before he died, he wrote how proud of us he was for what we had achieved. We were reduced to tears.

My daughter is a painter. As soon as she could hold a pencil or crayon in her hand she was drawing with colours. She loved animals and insects, so that was what she drew. If anyone tried to make her portray anything else she would stoutly refuse. When she was in the Sixth Form she decided to study art. Before the first term was over, she gave up art. She would only draw what she wanted to draw.

Kate has always drawn and painted sporadically because she has done many other things. In her forties she has come to her peak and is a first-class cartoonist as well as painting small animals and birds.

“Compulsory” is the ugliest word for me and my children. I would go to any lengths at school to avoid group games such as Hockey. Miraculously I succeeded by various subterfuges. At least I learned some ingenious ways of avoiding what I did not want to do.

All three refused to go to university as I had hoped they would. Yet I need not to have worried. All three of them learned all they needed to know to develop the work they most enjoyed. In fact Kate, in her part time, completed a good degree in psychology with the Open University. She also worked for a diploma in psychotherapy. She intended to be a therapist. For a few years she used her skills successfully. At the same time she was writing a book about her experiences as a teacher’s helper. I was, of course delighted that she had chosen two of my favourite subjects. However, after a few years of very good work, she decided to end her career as a psychotherapist. Her book is of very high quality and no-one else has written anything important about this subject.

However, Kate continued with her art work and she got better and better. Despite the fact that she has three important skills she inevitably came to the conclusion that what she wanted to do most is her drawing and painting.

When we are multitalented people it can be very difficult for us to decide which is the subject from which we get most satisfaction. I have the same trilogy of talents that Kate has but our choice was different. After nearly twenty years doing my therapy work I found myself gradually verging more and more into research. Then when I looked back at my life I saw clearly that since I was a small girl, I had always been a writer. I did it so easily that I didn’t think of it as something special. Like all natural writers I had read all the best books in English literature when I came across them. I had learned to judge good writing intuitively and very quickly.

In our family, we have all put our creative interests before every thing else. We want recognition but only by people who are knowledgeable enough to recognise the value of what we are doing. Money does not come first. It must be earned by ourselves to please us. Plagiarism is anathema to us. All our work must come from us for us to be fully satisfied. not from copying someone else.