I’m yet to meet today’s writer in the attic, Marie McLean, despite the fact we both live in the same city, we’re both writers and we encounter each other almost daily online. We’re hoping to remedy that soon, but in the meantime I’ll bring you Marie’s beautifully crafted essay on what writing means to her. It’s a really special piece of writing and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading it.
Marie was born in bred in Perth, but in her late twenties exchanged her career in insurance broking for the expat life. A decade and several relocations later, she found herself back in Perth with her husband and two children, but with lapsed qualifications and a substantial gap in her employment history.
Marie has written in a business sense for most of her adult life, and more recently turned her hand to creative writing, which is now taking over her existence. She is currently working on redrafting her first commercial fiction manuscript and is drawn to stories that explore family relationships. She used to enjoy gardening and renovating areas of her old house, but reading and writing are so much more tempting these days.
You can find Marie on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (and see why her garden hasn’t been weeded in months).
What Writing Means to Me
In April this year I celebrated my forty-fifth birthday. I have come to think of it in terms of my forty-fifth edition. Forty-five years of scenes, events and characters that have shaped the current volume. This latest edition is quite different to the prior ones. I know this only too well, having painstakingly reviewed, curated and shelved the entire collection over the past few years.
It’s surprising how dramatically the editions change from year to year. Some have shiny covers and well-thumbed pages filled with happy scenes, and witty dialogue interspersed with colourful photographs. Others are leather-bound, thick and heavy, weighted down with conflict and self-doubt. The ink is smudged with tears, and angry biro marks have ripped through the pages I have desperately tried to erase. Some editions barely exist. There are long-forgotten baby and toddler chapters where few records have been kept. During my teenage years, a reluctance to take notes leaves little on the shelf.
Some editions contain scenes that whilst catastrophic at the time, can finally make me laugh as I think of them in terms of what writing means to me today. Picture a girl in grade four, naïve and eager to be liked, highly susceptible to peer pressure, and already quite skillful with a pen. In a letter to my pen pal I was goaded into writing a short satire of my teacher. It never occurred to me that my pen pal might not appreciate my wit. That particular writing exercise landed my parents and me in the principal’s office and earned me a few lashes of the leather belt back at home.
I didn’t realise back then that writing would eventually offer me the gift of regeneration.
That particular lowlight of my early writing career didn’t hold me back. I continued to receive praise and attention for my writing, winning the odd school competition and consistent top marks on school reports. I was fortunate to have teachers who saw my ability and nurtured it. I didn’t realise back then that writing would eventually offer me the gift of regeneration. Writing was just something that was required of you at school.
I wasn’t a journal keeper, not after having my first attempt at writing a diary around age thirteen laughed at. So my teenage editions are scant. It can be difficult to flick through these years, cringing at the child I could sometimes be. I used to blame myself for behaviours that I now understand were somewhat a reflection of a broken home environment. Although I have gained perspective on the forces that affected me back then, it still upsets me to think I was drawn to write down terrible things about a friend, only to have another friend read it out in front of us at a slumber party. I am grateful that the writer I am today can express these things in words. I lost contact with that friend twenty-five years ago, but I’ve found it difficult to lose the guilt.
The editions of my life where I started work, met my husband and embarked on an expat life are some of my favourite. They’re the ones with the shiny covers, packed with glossy photographs of trips around the world and babies being born. Throughout those years the ability to write kept me intellectually stimulated, but it always seemed to be in the service of others; volunteering for charities and helping out on the school P&C. Beneficial uses of my abilities, but they didn’t truly nurture my soul.
The weighty, leather-bound editions that sit heavy on my shelf are the more recent ones. It’s ironic that the writing path I’m now on was brought about by some very darkly written words. Words that appeared in electronic form when verbal communication broke down. This time they weren’t all written by me. This time I was the recipient of a lot of them, and boy did they change my life forever. I have lost family members and a close friend over words that have been written in recent editions, but through writing I have gained an outlook on life that makes this okay.
Before I knew it, I was writing words all over the place as I tried to make sense of the way things had become.
It’s been a few years now since those dark words first popped into my inbox, but they were the writing prompts for the years that followed. Before I knew it, I was writing words all over the place as I tried to make sense of the way things had become. Slowly, the words began to form narratives as I worked through my issues. Eventually, I re-discovered the enjoyment I used to feel for writing; a deep satisfaction that comes from playing with words, first nurtured by my teachers at school all those years ago. Writing has given me new friends and a wide community of like-minded people. It has helped me regain my confidence and self-belief.
So when asked ‘what does writing mean to you?’ I can honestly say that it has changed my life. It has given me back joy and passion. It’s not something I do for others. It belongs solely to me. It lets me escape into imaginary worlds. It has presented me with an opportunity to fill the next editions with colourful illustrations, interesting characters and bright shiny covers again.
So when asked ‘what does writing mean to you?’ I can honestly say that it has changed my life.
My prior forty-five editions provide a compelling backstory. Without them, the narrative would be less complex, interesting or entertaining. I would probably have reached more of a ‘soggy middle’ rather than a challenging ‘midpoint reversal’ at this stage of my life. I’m looking forward to writing the future editions. You never know, one of them might get published one day.
If, like Marie, you’d like to send me a personal essay for Writers in the Attic, please contact me here. The topic is fairly loose—it can be about anything to do with writing or your writing life or what writing means to you. 600-1000 words is a good length.
I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.
I love reading every essay I receive, so please don’t be frightened to take the plunge!
If your novel bears any resemblance to your beautifully poignant and uplifting post here, Marie, I’m sure you’ll get published. 🙂
I think it’s more ‘when’ Marie will be published than ‘if’! 🙂
I just need to be a little stricter with my social media time and channel more of it into novel writing! But social media classifies as writing practice doesn’t it? Keeping it brief and editing out unnecessary words etc…
Thank you Marlish! Writing fiction and non-fiction seem to be two completely different things. I’m finding the non-fiction much easier to write so far!
My eyes are open and waiting for any novels you write.
Mine too, Robin! Marie’s certainly a beautiful writer!
Thanks Robin! Hopefully I’ll have something substantial you can feast your eyes on one day. Until then, we’ll always have Twitter!
That was lovely, and sad, and lovely, and sad. But uplifting and lovely. I can’t believe you and Mrs In The Attic haven’t met!!??
Well, I’m hopeful that I might manage a catch up with you too, one day soon.
It’s all of those things—sad and lovely and uplifting! You’re so right. And yes, we’d love to catch up with you, too, Ms Malone. Soon! x
Thank you Lily. I really tried to make sure there was a positive spin on the unhappy stuff. And I am really pleased that I have now met ‘Mrs In The Attic’ in the flesh (and she’s even more lovely in real life than online!). I’m looking forward to meeting you, dear fellow lollygagger, one day soon too!
Ah, love this piece, Marie. Great choice of post, Louise. Seeing as I know you both, maybe we should all meet for lunch!!!
Definitely! Maybe in June, after I’ve handed my manuscript back to my publishers and will feel less under the pump? 🙂
Absolutely. Sounds great. 👍🏼
Remind me towards the end of the month. Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks, Nadia. 🙂
Thanks Nadia! I’m am definitely up for lunch with you two lovely ladies 😊
We must hatch a plot to get Louise away from her pc…
I’ll definitely be free after June 12. Bring on June 12! 🙂
We’re pretty good at hatching plans so I’m sure it won’t be a problem!
Great post, Marie. Forty five episodes to your life thus far and hopefully many more to come.
Yes, it’s good to look back, but thanks for looking forward, too, Lis! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂
Thank you so much Elisabeth. I’m hoping I’ll get a lot more chapters too and that they will make even better stories!
Lovely post! Honest and beautifully written.
I love the way this essay has been structured—like a book. It’s honest and beautifully written, as you say. Thanks, Samantha. 🙂
Thanks Samantha! I also think your writing is honest and beautiful. Hopefully you’ll join us in Louise’s Attic one day?
Hopefully! Going to fill out the form this week and hope for the best 🙂
Please send one in! I’ll look forward to reading it! 😊
Sweet, will do 🙂
Yay! I’ll look out for it! 🙂
Warm and endearing. Look forward to your publications.
It’s both of those and I look forward to Marie’s published works, too, Susan. 🙂
Thank you Eileen!
I would normally skip the Writers in the Attic posts because my own issues make me feel so much less of a writer. Of course, I never forget that I am not published. Today though, I clicked on it from my email and I am faced with another proof of fate or destiny. This post resonates with me a lot not because of the specific circumstances Marie were in but her thoughts and how she looked (looks?) at the last 45 years of her life. I turn 45 in less than a month and this whole aging seems to be getting to me. There’s a tug of war between the promise of more good and the dread of life on a downhill…
Thank you for your beautifully expressed thoughts, Marie. And thank you for sharing, Louise.
It sounds like this post was meant to be published today just for you, Anne! It must be fate!
You mention that horrible imposter feeling we all get—that we’re not real writers until we’re published, which isn’t true. If you write, you’re a writer and you’re entitled to use the label.
On the subject of ageing, I just turned 50 at the end of last year. Like you, I felt a bit of trepidation in the lead-up to that milestone, but you’re right—there is more good on the other side! I don’t feel as if I’m on a downhill run, but the opposite, in fact. 🙂 Thanks for reading and dropping by!
Thank you, thank you so much, Louise! It’s a pleasure. Support and encouragement always help. I will remind myself when I’m a bit “lost”. 🙂 Much love and warm hugs. xxx
Thank you, Anne. Hugs to you, too. 🙂
Thank you for reading my contribution to Writers in the Attic, Anne. I hope your birthday is a special one. I think finding writing later in life is not such a bad thing. We have a lot of life experience to bring to it, as well as a positive focus for the years ahead. Writing is one of the best things that has happened to me and even though I’m nowhere close to being published, the writing community has been inspiring and very welcoming. I am very grateful for that alone. Publishing will be a bonus. Best of luck with your writing 😊
It was my pleasure to read your piece. And thank you for the encouragement. I officially turned 45 yesterday and days of getting teeth, pondering and psyching myself up, I think I got to “cool with 45” just in time. 😊
I had no issue with 45, or any of my forties, actually. Fifty, on the other hand, was a little confronting!
Oh boy! I’ll probably go mad, then. 😃 I better prepare for it early. Thanks for the heads up, Louise. 🤗😀
Happy Birthday – welcome to the 45 club! It’s not such a bad club to belong to 😊
Thank you so much, Marie! I do believe I’m converted. And if I fall off the wagon, I know what to tell myself to get back on. 😆
Thank you Louise for introducing us to these wonderful writers. Thank you Marie for a beautifully written reflection. Good luck on the publishing front.
You’re very welcome, Pinky! I’m pleased as punch that so many wonderful wordsmiths are volunteering for the job! (Can I tempt you, too?! Hint, hint … 😉 )
Thank you Michelle. Isn’t this the most amazing and inspirational series? I feel honoured to have been featured and really appreciate your warm feedback.
I love Marie, she’s a good sort. Hope to meet her one day to x
Couldn’t agree more, Rae! 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, dear friend. xx
Thank you Rae! It would be lovely to meet you too. I’m sure there’s a book launch for someone very special coming up in the near future where we will have the chance to meet (if not before!)
Lovely post. I especially like the term (and philosophy) “midpoint reversal”. <3
It’s a really special essay and I also love the phrase ‘midpoint reversal’. In fact I might steal it to describe my own change of career path in my forties! 🙂
Thanks Sarah! I only learnt recently of the ‘midpoint reversal’ in respect to novel writing and couldn’t resist applying it to my situation!
Oh, Louise, for the first time since it started, I’m a few days late reading a “What Writing Means to Me” guest post on your Writers in the Attic blog, and I’m so glad I didn’t race through it when I was under the pump with commitments and busyness. This is a heartfelt and brilliant post that resonated with me on so many levels, not least because I was lucky enough to meet Marie in person recently, after exchanging words with her on Facebook and other forums for some time. Thank you, Louise, for inviting her to be a guest; and thank you, Marie, for your honest, inspirational blog post. Can’t wait to see your first book published.
Please don’t fret about being late to read any of my posts. Gosh, don’t even feel obliged to read them! It’s hard some weeks, or some posts just don’t appeal. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one of Marie’s—so did I. It’s really special. Like you and other commentators here, I’m sure Marie will be published and we’ll be reading her book one day soon!
PS. I’m late to your shelf awareness post this week, too. And I love Tracy Farr, so I’m intending on getting to it. Soon. xx
Thank you so much for your lovely words Maureen! It’s been nice getting to know you too, and due to a glitch in my WordPress I’ve only come across these lovely comments today (which made me smile especially when I read yours, having caught up with you again last night at the ‘A Bouquet of Love’ launch). What an amazing surprise it’s been coming across these comments today. It’s like finding a Christmas present I forgot to open 😊
Thank you so much for welcoming me into your Attic Louise. It is an inspiring writing series and I have learnt so much from reading the regular posts. The honesty and support of the writing community is amazing, and one of the most unexpected yet treasured things that writing has given me.
Couldn’t agree more, Marie. I’ve been blown away by the support of other writers, too, and I think we’re particularly lucky in Perth. 🙂 Thank you for your beautiful piece. It was my absolute pleasure to publish it!
Heartfelt and relatable. I’d buy your book! Best to you in life and writing.
I agree, Michele—I’d buy Marie’s book, too!
Thanks for your reading and commenting. I hope Marie pops by and sees this note. 🙂