It has been a while since I wrote. Well, not true, ,as I have been blogging away and keeping it private for some time (oooh, the mystery). Not really, I’ve just enjoyed a period of readjustment – the 78th in a line of readjustments that I have gone through since my early teens, starting with genuinely believing that I somehow controlled the weather through my talents in literature class (long convoluted and adolescent story), waiting for Bernadette Peter’s star to fall and mine to ascend and now, more realistically just trying to get a bit of a balance.
Which is difficult as a teacher. Granted, as a breed we moan about long hours, decline in respect from students and their parents, low pay. Yes, it is all true – I’ve just received my ballot papers to strike against job cuts in my borough – and I can’t guarantee that I won’t talk about school in future posts, as it’s something that we all have in common and as adults, most of us, I think, actually enjoy talking about school. Either a – because we hated it and we can sadistically relive it in retropspect or b – because we loved it and can indulge in a little nostalgia as we talk about covering our exercise books with wallpaper and hanging out in the language lab.
Frankly (not that you would know it from the length of this post) I feel quite uncomfortable talking about it withother peope, because the conversation always ends in the same way. Example from the hairdressers last week:
HD: Is the water okay?
ME: Yes, fine thanks (it wasn’t, but who complains?)
HD: Lean forward, okay sit here now. Great. Just a bit off, right?
ME: Yes please, to about there.
HD: Have you had a busy week?
ME: (slightly perplexed at the direct nature of question) Yes, busy, quite stressful. We’ve had exams.
HD: You’ve had exams?
ME: No, my students. I’m a teacher.
HD: Awwwww (clearly assuming its primary, they always assume that) what age?
HD: Oh God. That’s not nice.
ME: (Stock response) Well, everyone finds it hard when they’re a teenager, I wasn’t very nice when I was a teenager. At least they’re honest with you!
HD: Not nice – around here they are so rude and to have to deal with them all the time…… I see them come out of the school up the road and they leave rubbish everywhere, their language oh God. That’s not nice.
ME: Well, they’re not all like that….
etc etc. It always makes me feel uncomfortable, as the conversation always follows this template:
Assume that it’s primary
Show dismay when it’s secondary
Complain about teenagers
Show pity for you
Accuse you for obviously not sorting them out.
Anyhoo, this is off the point – the purpose of this post wasn’t to talk about the dialectic of teaching but to talk about my revisiting the Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Have you read it? Its like a self help guide for ‘artists in recovery’ – a 12 week programme with different tasks each week to help you regain a bit of creative time. I think the book has higher aspirations – it is littered with examples of thwarted corporate lawyers who, with the help of the book write their first novel or nurses who start selling paintings to galleries. Certainly, when I first read it, it was with a view to succeed as an actor and still feel related to an industry which is about as logical and connected as CourtneyLove. This time, it is just to do something which doesn’t involve the place where I work. While I try not to moan about teaching, which I love, it is a slippery sonofabitch to detach from.
So first week has consisted with writing morning pages – 3 pages of freehand, stream of consciousness writing as soon as I wake up.
Right, slight problem here. I cannot will myself to get up earlier than I do, so the pages aren’t happening as soon as I would like – they are postponed till I get settled on the Docklands Light Railway, where my commute lasts 25 miutes and I can get my three pages done.
There are pros and cons to this:
Cons – its pretty public, so if a page moves me to dance a la Martha Graham, chances are I’m going to play the British tight arse and curb that impulse. And I’m paranoid – I always think the general public must be FASCINATED by what I’m writing, so I contort myself into a corner to try and hide what my free thoughts.
Also, I might bump into a colleague, which is a major buzzkill for two reasons. Because I won’t get the pages written and because there is nothing other than work to hold us together, we will inevitably talk shop. Which is like a slap in the face with a bag of vinegar at 7 in the morning.
The pros are not so numerous, sadly, the main one being ‘at least they get done’. When I first followed this programme, I was so concerned, so shrill and insistent that I would complete everything perfectly that I don’t think I did any of it for my benefit. It was like a hangover from school (that place again) – if I ticked all the boxes, I would get the A* and the acting/writing work that I so craved. This time, I’m a little more sanguine and I think the results are more interesting as a result. The morning pages don’t always get done, but when they do get done, they are more heartfelt.
And this is the longest piece of writing that I have sat down, written and enjoyed in months.