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Tell Your Own Story

Meg and Me by Shem Douglas

Article by Shem Douglas ©.
Posted in the Magazine (Tell Your Own Story: , ).
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She told me “You’ve got a great writing voice.” Meg Rosoff the famous author who I had glasses envy with, pulled me aside at the end of the workshop and said that I had to continue writing the way I do because it’s a very powerful thing. I remember blinking way too much but not much else. How did I get here to the point of a top class writer telling me I have a talent? She will never know the impact her kind words had on a random girl with ridiculous hair and zero creative direction.

After moving to Dublin a couple of years ago I was determined to start afresh and quit procrastinating the hell out of my days. I was fast approaching my 30th birthday and so ensued the most fabulous of meltdowns. I was floating through my days leading up to my birthday as one giant clichéd motivational poster “START LIVING YOUR LIFE FEARLESSLY!” I was on a self-imposed quest to live my life so hard and so offensively loud that the Westboro Baptist Church would simply freak out and have no choice but to picket my funeral. My one and only desire was to attempt to write a little something that I could share with others.

I already had a blog http://www.mouthopenstoryjumpout.com/ which I started a few years previous as an outlet for my emotional state when dumped by my first love. It started as a distraction and then morphed into a one sided love affair where I poured out all my thoughts on why I hated the world and everything it stood for. However it was clear that my blog loved me but just wasn’t IN love with me as the stats clearly showed that nobody really cared for my bitter rambles. Who knew that trying to incite hate wouldn’t be so popular eh?! So I switched it up and began writing light hearted rants as my heartbreak became less of a tragic comedy but more of a distant jaded memory.

It was still very hard to judge whether my writing was any good even after I noticed a slight rise in viewers to my blog. Friends and family would always tell me how ‘fab’ my writing was but what did they know? I was convinced my nearest and dearest only offered support because they are programmed to love me because I had great hair and nice teeth! My best friend suggested that I enroll in a creative writing course but I was not a fan – at all. I was still living my life with this bohemian attitude (that I’m pretty sure I stole from a West End musical), that you cannot be taught creativity. I believed that true expression in writing cannot be critiqued or edited because how very dare anyone try to tell me how to write. They are my words, my story and if I want to bastardise the English language and shoehorn it into my vision, then so be it.

shem picIt was shortly after signing up to a creative writing class at the Big Smoke Writing Factory, due to peer pressure from my frustrated friends, that I finally had a word with myself. I was an idiot and my half arsed ideology of bohemia was soon declared null and void. Buzzing off of likeminded folk was amazing and all I kept asking myself was “what took me so long?” After my master class on ‘Getting Published’ by Vanessa O’Loughlin I felt light and for the first time in years, I felt hopeful. Could I actually pull this writing thing off and not be exposed as a fraud? When will people discover that I can’t actually write and that I’m just a 5 year old with crayons and a big imagination?

A couple of months after meeting Vanessa for the first time she emailed me and invited me to take part in a live writers workshop for Writers Web TV. I’m pretty sure I was there just to make up the numbers, but I jumped on it because I was scared and everything truly scary I’ve done in my life has turned out to be pretty damn awesome.

It was at this workshop set in a studio with camera’s pointing at my huge sweaty face, that I met and fell ever so slightly in love with Meg Rosoff. She was talking about her book How I Live Now which was made into a mega movie, and the process she went through of writing this big time novel. I sat there totally drawn into her chat and how she writes organically with no rules. It was like she dictates how she writes and when she writes depending on the moment. I absolutely loved her vibe. Meg (because I’m clearly on first name basis at this point!) set us an exercise to write a letter to someone who we really admired or really disliked. I instantly chose my A-Level English Literature teacher at school. A lady who made me feel like a complete bumbling imbecile for 2 years and mocked me when I said I enjoyed writing.

When it came to my turn to read aloud my letter, my heart was racing and I stuttered. Maybe my English teacher was right. Meg is going to laugh me out of this studio and throw a copy of her book at my head for being an embarrassment to not just myself but the entire literary world. Your great hair and nice teeth will not save you now Shem!

However, her reaction shocked me as I just sat there with a dry mouth and a gormless expression. Meg told me that it was good. In fact she said it was ‘real’ and she felt teary. Sorry what has just happened?!! Meg Rosoff was telling me that my words moved her! Holy crap.

I took this new lease of confidence and threw myself into my new project of turning my blog posts into a short ebook. I finally finished Mouth Open Story Fell Out: Cynical Rants Of A Singleton in March this year and self published this on Amazon. A short non-fiction narrative about being a single girl with extra brain burps on everything love related, you can check it out here. That was it. It was all I needed. Someone who I really admired to tell me I have something. I may still be searching for what that something is… but it’s good to know it’s there. I have no idea if my writing will work out or if anything will come of it, but for the first time in my life I have taken something seriously and accomplished what I set out to do. Write a little something that I can share with others.

(c) Shem Douglas

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Shem Douglas is a British girl with roots in the Caribbean living here in Dublin. She studied and lived in London for many years before switching it up and vagabonding to Ireland! Shem is a freelance copywriter by profession and enthusiastic blogger with a mad passion for fruit beers, 80s power ballads and exaggerated hand gestures!