People often ask me what it is about writing that I love. Surely, they must think, it can't be the lack of stable finances, the frequency of tear-your-hair-out existential calamities, or the questionable 'research topics' gracing the history on my Google search bar?
They'd be right. It's none of these things. Although I do endure such things because my love of writing is so flipping huge. But what made it so flipping huge in the first place?
Like all great things of significance, I reckon it all goes back to my childhood. Long story short (and you're lucky, the long-story-short-thing is not normally where I excel), I was a shy child who was, at times, scared of her own voice.
I knew that stirring inside that chubby little body was a fierce, wild spirit who wanted to scream with laughter, shout from rooftops, yell all the colours my voice could hold. But instead, for some reason, I rarely ventured into such realms. In the eighties, if you were a little girl, you were supposed to be quiet, well-behaved, thin and pretty. Everybody knew that.
Not much changed in the nineties - loud, exciting and risk-embracing behaviour was for boys only. Liam Gallagher. Jarvis Cocker. Snoop Dogg. And if you were female and fancied actually speaking your mind, it seemed you had to emulate those boys by becoming (and it pains me to use this phrase) a 'ladette'. Even then, thin and pretty were still clearly the most important things to be.
This blog post isn't about dismantling the patriarchy to an extent that I can illustrate how perfectly brilliantly young girls were / are silenced with harmful benchmarks for their very existence. BUT it can give you a realistic idea of how easily somebody's voice can be tempered. I always knew there was a voice inside me somewhere, but harnessing it, practicing it and increasing its volume were things I just didn't know how to do.
And therein lies the answer. What I love about writing is that it finally gives me a voice.
As I entered the rickety world of adulthood, I found opportunities to write that helped that voice come out. I studied Creative Writing at university, started my own community business and wrote about a billion grant applications and wrote poetry and journals privately. Slowly but surely that voice was evolving.
Then, in 2006 something massive shifted for me. A long-term relationship and my business both came to abrupt ends and I dicked off to Turkey for a month to figure out my life (I based the whole of the Life Is Yours Trilogy on this). Just when I thought I was crushed, I actually bloomed and I picked up the idea of writing, dusted it off and realised it had been THE thing for me all along.
It wasn't an easy ride from there. When is it ever? But writing has been my companion ever since. Whether it's a novel, a blog post, a social media caption or notes for a presentation, my voice is loving its new work.
Finally, I can form opinions, express wishes, share ideas without the stress of having to 'sound good' in the moment. Writing gives me time. It gives me wriggle room to figure out what I want to say, how I want to say it and who - out of my growing cast of characters - would be best placed to say it with me. After years of feeling stifled, this is so bloody liberating.
More recently, my writing has helped me to take even bolder steps. Off the back of having published books in the world, I have been asked to do interviews, radio work and podcasts time and time again. Whilst these opportunities might have had me running for the hills a couple of decades ago, now I lean into that fear and give it a little stroke. Who doesn't, after all, like a little stroke?
Every time I take a leap of faith and appear on local or national radio, I am told by family, friends and actual people I don't even know, that they love listening to me. This is weird. Oh so uncomfortable. But also, strangely intriguing.
Have you ever found that the one thing you are scared of doing is the one thing everybody tells you that you're good at? That seems to be what's happening here and it's been said too many times for me to ignore it. It can't be as simple as the novelty of my adorable Geordie lilt. Can all those people really be wrong?
These compliments about my voice, my presentation and my demeanour are haunting me. But in a good way. I'm old enough and ugly enough now to know that you can bat compliments away all you like, but if they're sincere, they'll keep coming and you might gain from seeing them as a signpost of sorts.
I feel I'm being signposted towards using my voice more. More podcasts. More interviews. More talks, presentations and panels. Scary? Hell yeah. Exciting? Also hell yeah.
What's more, I'm aware that I have four pretty decent novels in the world that could very well be transformed into voice format. Audio books are huge and will probably only get more popular as we stride into this busy digital age. It's not market standard for an author to read out their own fictional works (it usually applies to autobiographies) but who cares? Surely, there's nobody else who could narrate them with the same passion and accuracy as me?
*Ponders on adorable Geordie lilt*
What about the lack of financial stability I mentioned at the start? Isn't the recording of audio books an insanely expensive process? Why yes, it is. But, as the universe seems to be on my side, it's no wonder that I received a very kind offer from a friend with a full recording studio to use his facilities AND expertise to make this bloody well happen.
*Universe takes bow. Retreats behind red, velvet curtain*
So there you have it. I write, among other things, to develop and express my voice. That's no small thing. I think you'll agree.
Watch this space for more news re: audio books!
How do you find your voice? What talent do you have that everybody insists you develop? I'd love to know!
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post then make sure you sign up to get ALL Abigail's bookish news as and when it happens. You'll also bag yourself a copy of Life Is Yours - the first book in the Life Is Yours Trilogy. Sign up here.
P.P.S. Here are some places you can hear Abigail speak about her writing and other matters close to her heart:
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