I have difficulty in letting go. It’s a control thing. I’m one of those sad people who have never got drunk, ( qualify that- I have been tipsy but never so far gone that I didn’t know what I was doing or threw up or did any of those really pleasant things people talk about when they have a hangover, whatever that might be, lol), I never smoked, ( I  have inhaled  everyone else’s around me- does that count?), I don’t take drugs- wait I do. But the doctors give them to me, so they don’t count except I can get sufficiently woozy on them not to see straight and for the room to spin- is that like being drunk? It’s a life of being scared, scared of failure, scared of not quite measuring up. The effects of this are apparent in my life, the road not taken etc, but more especially in the belief in self, which is sadly lacking.

This does have an effect on my writing, on my storytelling. Take a risk and fail? Oh my! Put one toe in the waters of uncertainty and I’m back on the beach as far up the shore as I can go. At least I was. Several things have combined to push me forward, for me to make that fateful leap in to the unknown.

First was the decision to stay in the production of The Stories Shakespeare Knew for the RSC Open Stages, written and directed by Polly Tisdall, Young Storyteller of the Year 2011, a mighty talent.  Rehearsing with Polly is a joy. She takes me in new directions. I have been a horse, a shrew ( mouse variety), crawling on the floor, arm wrestling ( don’t mess with me, I’m that good!), shaking and decrepit, young and in love, sorrowful and hard hearted- all in the same scene! Not quite but you know what I mean. Visualisation is the key. Trust is another. You know the exercise where you have to close your eyes and fall back in the certainty that your partner will catch you? I have never been able to do it! I am the catcher, always, never the faller.  Others can trust me implicitly. I try very hard not to let people down. I rarely give them a chance to be trusted. My father used to use a very old fashioned saying that he drummed into us: “Never be beholden to anyone.” You can see where this leads, can’t you?

The second was going to a writing workshop with Jenny Alexander. She used a visualisation process too, to unlock our blocks. My writing for the workshop was boring because I found letting myself go into the visualisation with any sense of depth and meaning hard. The bare bones were there but not any magic, no wondrous turn of phrase, no tilting the world at a different angle.  Yet thinking about it later, I could see what she meant. I could envisage my blocks and the way that I needed to work them out. There was a way I could move on to realise my thoughts on paper.

The third was meeting the most wonderful couple, Mike & Tina O’ Connor. I am in awe of their ability to accept everything, to question, to seek out the truths that are there and to  create from that music and story. Discussion on storytelling in Cornwall, as it had been and was now led to a game with story cubes.  My pitiful attempt had me cringing. Yet the talk left me buzzing. It was the very randomness of the cubes and then arranging them in an order to suit yourself. I was floundering, what story did I know to fit the cubes? What story could I tell that would match them. Even then  control took over. As I began, I found that I had to mention every cube at least once. I had to make a circular story. Control, control… control is the enemy of flights of fancy. It is the cold water on magic realism.

Finally a story workshop in Mslexia about nicking stories and changing them.  I read this through a couple of times and suddenly- as it does in true story fashion, a glimmer appeared. A story that I’d heard recently, read recently had lodged somewhere in the recesses of my hippocampus, the flight or fight part of my brain. It was fluttering, trying to get free of the rigid control I’d set on it.

That night I sat down and wrote the story. It was brilliant! Not really, but I had written it non stop. No going back and thinking what’s the word for this? Is the grammar right? I could see it all in my mind and I wanted to get the scenes down on paper or in this case screen.  They always say, don’t they, write your first draft straight , without pauses, no rereading until it’s finished. I had taught that. I believed that. So why hadn’t I applied it to myself? Because I had to lose control.  So hard to do.

So here I am dangling in space, wondering if the rope will hold me up. Dangling though is just as bad. I have to start swinging just slightly. Just enough to get me over to that ledge I can see on the other side of this chasm, before the fires of ineptitude and morbidity burn through the rope and I fall. Who then will catch me? Hillel said, ” Who is for me if  I am not  for myself? If not now, then when?” Exactly!

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