Writing about bad experiences isn’t always cathartic

Paula Knight

Paula Knight

Although the writing process was a conduit for my emotions at times, it hasn’t been ultimately cathartic. After I finished my book, the grief over not having a baby increased, and writing about it probably kept things in the present for longer than was emotionally healthy!

My book is not my baby

I think that the childbirth metaphor for anything creative is somewhat overused. I’ve written a book about not having children, so it’s all too easy to liken my writing process to the creation of a baby. However, it’s definitely just a book made from paper – not very cuddly, and thankfully I don’t have to change its nappy.

The next two items illustrate my concern over how Brexit might affect opportunities for young people:

I’ve been behind the iron curtain

I went on a cultural music exchange to Czechoslovakia in my teens. Staying with a family from a completely different political landscape was eye-opening and nourishing. It was both thrilling and  unnerving to be held at a border with watch towers while our instrument cases were searched.

I was complicit in hijacking a train

As a student I took part in an Erasmus exchange to Bologna. The Universities were ‘occupied’ by students protesting privatisation, so classes were cancelled for the first two months of my trip. My time there included joining the mass occupation of a train to Naples for a demonstration, learning a new language, living in an isolated C16th villa, and a dusty sculpture studio with no hot water, sharing bunk beds with five others.

Life experiences can be just as educating as exams and formal learning.

I have ME/CFS

While I was working on my book, my illness escalated, resulting in an already labour-intensive medium taking even longer. I’m lucky to be able to work from home and pace myself, but many people have to give up work completely and struggle to get benefits and healthcare. I hope my book will raise awareness about the illness.

My favourite place to read is in the bath

This is good for my wellbeing, but not at all healthy for books! I don’t allow library books in the bath.

I grow oak trees

I’m raising my own tiny woodland as my means of feeling connected to the future. I’ve planted three in The National Forest, and have a further 15–20 saplings growing in pots.

I write with words and pictures

In my work for both adults and children, much of the storytelling happens in pictures. I think it’s a shame that we’re weaned off books with pictures as we progress through school. Words are not the only medium through which to tell stories: Pictures can often say things in ways that words can’t.

I once played a benefit gig for a diabetic cat

The first writing I ever attempted was in the form of song lyrics for my band. This gave me confidence that, as well as being an illustrator, perhaps I could also write books.

She woke up and it was all a dream!

One of the hardest things I find about writing is finding a good ending…