Thursday, 23 February 2012

A little part of my youth...

I heard some really sad news this week; my school drama teacher and VIth form form-tutor, John (Stephen) Godfrey, died last Friday.  Friday was my birthday, which makes it somehow worse.
I felt a little bit guilty when I heard the news (which I know is many people's immediate reaction to someone dying), not just because I'd been living it up with champagne and presents, but because, to be honest, I'd been badmouthing him just a little bit recently.  Not that he knew, or that it would have made any difference if he had, but anyway...

You see, it's easy to blame others for our failure to write: the kids, the spouse, the postman knocking just as inspiration's about to strike, authors who write better than we think we do, friends and family who don't take us seriously, the dog for needing a walk, the cat who wants to be let in and out so often that there's absolutely NO POINT sitting down at the keyboard... you get the picture. 

When I was 17 or 18 I had a careers interview with Mr G (as we called him).  He was always a humorous, eccentric sort of chap with an alternative take on most things, so I was really shocked when he told me that I couldn't "just be a writer" and that I needed "a real job". 

Fair enough, I can see where he was coming from, but surely there was some better advice he could have given me? (To be fair, he wasn't a careers teacher - cutbacks I suppose, even back then in 1985/86.)  Perhaps he could have suggested a degree in Creative Writing or a journalism course.  I don't know, but I just remember the world crashing around my ears at that moment.  I felt stupid, as though I was kidding myself... and I'm guessing we writers all know that feeling.  I have often thought back to that moment over the years.  It still feels very real.
    There it is, the scene of the crime!  Pic from 1986.

So, off I went, did my A Levels and got a job in an office.  I grew up, I got married, had my children and didn't have time to write for years and years.  Writing never left me, though; it was always there niggling away at the back of my mind and I'd scrawl lines of dialogue, thoughts and descriptions on any piece of paper that came to hand, wherever we were.  It was a waiting game.

Perhaps I could have carried on writing through those years, but the belief that I could had left me.
I did start writing again in about 2004, but it was only after losing my lovely mum in 2006 that I started to take it seriously.  She never saw me published, but I know she'd be so proud of me.

Back to dear Mr G.  He has to carry a little of the can for my stopping writing and getting bogged down in real life, but I can't blame him completely.  Looking back, I don't know what I'd have had to write about at the age of 18, and I know his advice was sensible - it just sent me off in an unimaginative direction.  I have a lot of experience of life under my belt now; I've met so many different types of people, had so many experiences, loved with all my soul, lost loved ones and had my heart broken.  I have so much more to write about than I did then.

My happiest memories of school are all associated with Mr G and his wonderful drama lessons and productions.  I can see his face so clearly.  I definitely had a little crush on him (as did everyone else, probably!) and still find myself dreaming about him occasionally. 

So, although you didn't know Mr G (apart from you, Unmann-Wittering, if you're reading), I'd like to use this post to thank him for being a wonderful teacher and an inspiration to me in many ways.  When I teach drama as part of my job he is never far from my mind.  I took far more from him than he 'took' from me.  In fact, the more I think about it, he didn't really take anything from me.  I didn't have to take his advice, after all!

If you're still reading, thank you so much for indulging me!

Have you had a similar experience with a teacher that resulted in you changing your path?  Or did you have a teacher who was an inspiration to you?  I'd love to know!

18 comments:

Annalisa Crawford said...

The post I wrote as part of the Origins blogfest - did you do that? I can't remember - also mentioned a careers teacher who told me writing wasn't a proper job. I'm thankful I was too stubborn to listen.

At least you started writing again!

My favourite teacher is still going strong in his 80s - I see him out and about sometimes. He taught history in such a fascinating way. When I was 11, he totally looked old enough to remember the Spanish Armada!

Unmann-Wittering said...

That's awful news. He was a marvellous, talented man. I wonder if his advice to you was borne out of the fact that he had tried his hand as a playwright / writer before becoming a teacher and his lack of success (relatively - he was published) was always something that bothered him. Maybe he was trying to save you some of the hardship he'd experienced?

LindaK said...

Yes, I guess he was. He had so much talent - I suppose he didn't get the opportunity to persevere with writing because of life getting in the way. I didn't know he'd been published. Poor Mr G.

Nicki Elson said...

It's too bad what he said derailed you from writing earlier, but I'm willing to bet that where you went after that was where you were meant to go. And like you said, life's rich experience can only enhance the writing. I'm glad you have fond memories of your teacher & that you're back to the writing. :)

I was just telling my kids about my high school teachers a couple days ago. I had some good ones.

LindaK said...

Yes, I do remember that - and I think I mentioned Mr G in my comment! I didn't have much self-belief at 18 and was easily put off most things!

LindaK said...

Yes, Nicki - I think everything happens for a reason! I'd probably have spent ages trying to get published and given up!

Laura said...

I had an amazing english teacher who basically told me, yes, I could be a writer even if I was dyslexic, and it was fine, my brain would work in mysterious ways, I'd just have to learn how to understand those ways. Amazing lady.

I'm sorry for your loss, but at least you were celebrating for him at the time of his passing, even if you didn't know that then.
Laura x

L.G.Smith said...

I've been having a conversation with a friend about this sort of stuff recently. We both agree that the most interesting writers earned degrees and have interest in other things besides writing, so I do think your teacher was trying to be helpful in a long-term way, even though it backfired. Also, like you said, experience seems to be one of the most valuable tools a writer can have at their disposal (what the heck would we have written about in our twenties?).

Amazing how one person can influence a life though, isn't it?

Peggy Eddleman said...

So sad that he died! Even though he might have stunted your writing dreams, I love that he gave you so much in other areas.

Sarah Pearson said...

This is sad news for you. I'm glad you have some happy memories of him.

Rachel said...

A very moving post,Linda. Mr G sound like he was trying to guide you in the right direction. I remember being incredibly annoyed with my parents for 'strongly advising'me on my O level choices. Left to my own devices I'd have done art, drama, pottery and all the non-sensible options! Not many writers/ artists/actors make it big enough, and quickly enough not to have a day job unfortunately.

And I agree with the benefits of being older, an 18 year old probably hasn't the experience to write something I'd want to read.

There's nothing stopping you now though. Go write. :0)

LindaK said...

Thank you for your comments, everyone! I agree, he definitely had my best interests at heart and he was absolutely right that we all need a way of putting food on the table! I was so crushed, maybe I didn't even listen to what he had to say after the "You can't just be a writer" part!

Kittie Howard said...

First, Happy Birthday! It's unfortunate you experienced life's major transitions on the same day. But you very movingly expressed how the two interacted. I can somewhat relate as, when younger, I took golf lessons. When the golf pro joked I had a great career as an undertaker (because I made lots of holes in the dirt trying to hit that silly ball), I mentally quit and walked away from the sport. Others in the class told me I was overreacting, that the pro was just trying to lighten me up as even they knew I'd been trying too hard. But, no. I chose to believe what I believed, an excuse really, because deep down I didn't like the sport. Still don't. Anyway, all things work out. I love driving the cart for my husband and you've got experience under your belt to season your writing. Write on!

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

I'm sorry for your sad news :-(. And Happy Birthday?
Thank you for your visit to my blog and your gracious comments for Annalisa. And thank you for following, I'm returning the visit and the favor. You are not the only who thought she had to get a "real job." I wasted many years and did not settle into my writing until I was 45! My first book published as I turned 56. It's never too late, but it's also lovely if you can somehow avoid the mistakes we others have made and find a way to get to it sooner. Look forward to reading your posts.

Scribbling Sharon said...

I can only remember teachers that were truly awful or the truly inspirational! In Junior School musical Mr Morgan was my hero, taught me guitar, key board, trumpet, how to read music and play by ear. I loved it! Sadly when I got to Senior School, my parents wouldn't pay for music lessons, there was no encouragement and I ended up giving it up. I've recently taken up the guitar again - and find I still love it!

Rebecca Bradley said...

I think it's difficult isn't it, when teachers are faced with students who talk about future jobs that aren't the typical nine to five, regular pay roles.

Happy Birthday and keep following your dreams now, you still have a future in front of you!

Suze said...

I think that Mr. G's passing can be like a milestone of sorts for you. Sometimes an unlikely event spurs growth in places that were stopped up, before. I don't know. I just have a feeling that some form of renaissance is in the wings, here.

LindaK said...

Everyone - thank you for all the sympathetic and encouraging comments. Following your blogs and having you follow mine makes me feel as though I've suddenly gained a whole load more friends! x