What Made Me Start Writing

“I think you’ll be a writer and a teacher, when you grow up,” said my grandmother, when I was about eleven.  To this day, I do not know what made her see that in me.  Still, when I got divorced, it made perfect sense – as a teacher and weekend scribbler – to scrap my husband’s surname and, not reprise my maiden name but adopt my grandmother’s.  It was my way of thanking her for all the stories with which she nurtured me.

Most of them were fairy tales.  Russian fairy tales from the country of her birth, and Armenian tales from the land of her forefathers.  They were woven with firebirds, loyal grey wolves, Caucasus beauties bearing a star on their foreheads and a moon crescent in their hair, and enchantresses as knowing as the mountains of Central Asia.  I was a lazy reader but a voice telling a story could bewitch me into obeying any order, including eating up my dinner.  Eventually, I became my grandmother’s apprentice, making up spells and feats of my own, to tell after dinner.

I had to write down my first story because I could find nobody to listen to it.  So my school fountain pen became my voice and the notepad, my audience.  I was twelve, and the dream I had been nurturing all my life lay shattered on the winding staircase of a 19th Century building in Southern France.

More than anything else, I wanted to be a dancer.  As soon as I could draw, I covered sheets of white paper in figures of ballet dancers.  I leaned on the kitchen sink, trying to stand on my toes.  I pushed drawing pins into the soles of my shoes, to try and tap like Gene Kelly, on the tiled floor.  Dancing made me feel alive.  Our frequent house moves and difficult financial situation prevented me from attending ballet school until, at the age of twelve, I was accepted by the Conservatoire in Nice.  I could have danced all over the walls and ceiling, like Fred Astaire.  I planned to take the title role in Prokofiev’s  Cinderella when I grew up.  Every Wednesday, I skipped up the wide staircase of the 19th Cetury building to my class.  Every Wednesday, I practised turning out my feet.  Until the bone in my arch became swollen and painful.  Something was out of sync.  My back did not arch as far back as the other girls’, my legs could not kick as high, and my hips refused to remain level.  My body could not keep up with my longing to dance.  Wednesdays became the days when I was told off by the teacher, whose feet were so distorted by years of ballet, she had trouble walking.  Until the Wednesday when she told me not to bother coming back.  I walked down the winding staircase expecting, hoping to be swallowed up by it, since I could see nothing ahead.  There could be not future without dance.  There could be no me.

Next, I sat sobbing my heart out at our kitchen table.  A twelve year-old who had lost her life’s purpose.  “Never mind,” said my mother – or words to that effect.  I felt as though I had been slashed across the chest.  I might as well have lost my voice, for all impact I made on other people’s ears.  So I took out my ink pen, and wrote it all down – my grief, my anger, my despair – and the notepad listened with empathy.  I wrote a story about the ghost of a dancer who haunts the Nice Conservatoire every night, the sound of her weeping echoing throughout its corridors.

That is how, whenever my voice failed me, my pen took over as my spokesman, and when I could find no friend, the notebook became my confidant.  In time, I discovered that by writing I could create a world where I felt happier than in the so-called real world.  In my written world, I could become myself – free of the constricting boundaries of my physical life.  I had always been miserable at school but now I had something to look forward to every afternoon.  I would rush back home, put on some music, and start scribbling until I entered a world where anything was possible, and where I could have anything I wanted.

Even three decades later, my writing world feels much more real to me, than the so-called real world.  It is the world where all the normally scattered pieces of me come together to form a whole Self, and I feel real.

And the dancing ghost of the Nice Conservatoire still pirouettes up and down the winding staircase, her joyous laughter bouncing off the 19th Century walls.

© Scribe Doll

This entry was posted in Odds & Ends and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What Made Me Start Writing

  1. denizsezgun says:

    “…..Even three decades later, my writing world feels much more real to me, than the so-called real world. It is the world where all the normally scattered pieces of me come together to form a whole Self, and I feel real…..”

    How much I found myself in your words…
    When I was about 5-6, my father used to be the founder and the owner of a bookhouse in Istanbul. Next door was a shop (a treasure island for me) of stationary stuff. Every Saturday, I remember myself waking up at 6 in the morning to get ready before my father, tailed to him – who had to catch the 06:45 Bosphorus Boat to this work… Spending almost an hour onboard meeting the friends, exchanging few thoughts on actual political issues, finaly stepping into his bookhouse, inhaling the heavy smell of full literature in these books…
    There I found myself running to the next store, picking the best pen and the best quality of A4 sized paper, writing stories, almost about everything a kid can write in a whole day…

    However, I always found it too difficult and boring to type all these handwritings onto my computer… I loved mailing to friends so I’ve started enveloping my stories with a regular stamp on… I still do this through post offices.

    But what I admire in your writings is also the language itself. English is charming. Many languages are charming in their own nature of course, however I find the simplicity of English so wonderful that I can read forever… Your writings, your expressions fit / suit so good in this language…

    • scribedoll says:

      I wish I knew Turkish, so I could read your stories! They must be a treasure. I’ll bet your father’s bookshop was a special place full of character.

      I can relate to your love of bookshops and stationery shops. I still love new stationery. In early autumn, I always get a thrill from entering stationery shops, smelling the paper, the pencils; seeing the shiny new ring binders and notebooks; admiring pencil sharpeners, eraser and – especially – pencil cases. In my experience, as a child, France had the best stationery.

      Once again, thank you so much for your kind words.

  2. Anna says:

    Dear Katia, I find so much pleasure in reading your pieces! Came across your blog through London School of English (I’m subscribed to Luke Thompson’s Podcasts) and can’t stop reading your stories two days running)))). Thank you for the content and for the really delightful style! You must know that readers from Russia (I live in an ancient city – Smolensk) enjoy your writing!

    • scribedoll says:

      Dear Anna,
      Thank you SO much for your kind words! It makes such a difference to know that there are people who enjoy reading what I write. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and for your encouragement.

  3. Heart-wrenching. My mother loved dancing and it didn’t work out for her. I had a trauma around writing, and it took me half a lifetime and another language to re-own my love for it. Your story encourages me to at least think about recording the event.

  4. Alex Wayne says:

    Thanks – another good read.

Please note that you do not have to fill in the E-mail, Name and Website fields to leave a comment. Just leave your comment and click "Post Comment". It will still be sent to me for moderation (and I will then only see you Whois and IP information). For further information, please see the "Privacy/Data/GDPR" section of this blog site.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s