C.x (itsjustc) wrote,

“Must Try Harder!”


I was born at the latter end of the baby boom in 1964.

By the time I started at Infant and Junior school, the tiny, stone-built, Victorian village school, originally built to hold two hundred and forty pupils in two classes of fifteen pupils per year, had exploded to an exceedingly cramped six hundred pupils with three classes of forty pupils per year.

The school’s solution was to install multiple temporary outdoor Portable-style classrooms which had to be placed in the only available space, the playground.

By comparison, the extremely large comprehensive school I attended, was purposely built in 1963 to accommodate the demands of the baby boom. It provided education to over two thousand five hundred pupils in fifteen classes of forty three pupils per year.

I was always in the highest of the fifteen classes. I was good at maths and science and, at a time when it was still compulsory for girls to be taught Baby care, Housewifery skills, typing, and needlework, I was the first girl ever to be allowed to study Chemistry, Biology, and Physics as optional subjects.

But English was by far my worse subject. I just didn’t understand it! I felt as if somewhere in my early days of infant school I had missed out on the early building blocks of how English grammar and punctuation worked!

Whenever it came to end of term reports, I would get A’s in Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physics and ‘E’ in English, along with the all too common phrase, ‘Must try harder’. But, as I didn’t actually understand what I was supposed to be doing, and nobody told me what I was doing wrong or how to correct my mistakes, how could I possibly know what to do, to try harder?

The day I discovered, aged thirty-three years old, that I, and thousands of other people born in 1964, had been part of a national experiment, I was angry, but not totally surprised.

It was actually my best friend who found out. He decided to return to education as a mature student with the intention of qualifying to teach English in secondary schools. His university interviewers asked him his birth year and looked at each other knowingly when he told them 1964. They informed him about an experiment the Department of Education had decided to run on all pupils born in that year. They wanted to know what the future would hold, for the children as adults, if they were not taught any English grammar and punctuation at all!

Now I understood why I had always had problems with my English!

With this knowledge, I decided to retake my exit level English exam at night school. I proudly left my first lesson knowing all about nouns, proper nouns, adjectives, adverbs and much more. The second lesson introduced me to punctuation, including commas, periods, and quotation marks and after the third lesson, I had a list of notes with definitions to words like: onomatopoeia, simile, homophone and first person.

My night school course was a revelation and I learned more English structure in those first three lessons than I had ever learned in the whole of my school life!

After being directed to a livejournal fan fiction group in 2007, I quietly read and commented on other people’s stories and, after five years, I finally wrote a fan fiction story.

A livejournal friend suggested I enter LJ idol in 2014 and, for eight weeks, I wrote factual essays and humorous traveller’s tales. Then my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I felt I needed to leave the contest to spend as much time with her as possible. I will always remember the kindness, friendship, love and support I received from members of the group at that time.

Still having only written six short fictional stories since leaving school in 1980, for some bizarre reason, in late 2015, I got really excited when I saw a poster pinned on the local noticeboard about a new monthly writer’s group at the village library.

I was nervous at the first meeting, believing they were all going to be brilliant writers who would look down their noses at me for not knowing punctuation. Of the six people at that first meeting, two were indeed scary intellectuals, three seemed quite normal and one gentleman, claimed he was only there to support his wife and put the kettle on.

Attending the writing group is the best thing I have done in years. The seven of us who were at that first meeting are all now firm friends. The intellectuals are no longer scary, none of us are ‘normal’ and the gentleman now writes, too. They have been encouraging and honest about my work, which I appreciate especially when it comes to grammar and punctuation, as I still believe that most people in the world know far more than I ever will!

This Christmas, kehlen, whose writing I greatly admired when I was in Ljidol in 2014, sent me an invitation to therealljidol second chance. Having decided to enter, I set myself the challenge of writing a short fictional story for each round rather than writing about myself.

Having been set the challenge of creating five pieces for week 17, I decided to have an attempt at different styles and themes for each one of them. Therefore, it seemed right for this prompt to be a factual piece of writing.

As a procrastinator, sitting down to write is not something that comes naturally to me, but in these last few months, I have found that setting time aside each day to write is really pleasurable and I am enjoying the results of my productivity.

I continue to have many insecurities about my writing. I still see myself as a relatively new writer. I find it hard to accept that it is okay to write in first person, after years of being told by teachers that, “Writing ‘I’ in a story, is lazy writing!” I naturally have ongoing problems with grammar and punctuation and don’t have the confidence to post anything online without getting it proofread first.

I have discovered my love of writing late in life, but now have a real passion for the everyday structure of working hard to get a piece completed, and will hopefully carry on for many days, weeks and months to come.


This is my entry for therealljidol

Week 17 (5 of 5) -
"Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life"

Tags: ljidol

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