by Lynne E. Blackwood
The three-year journey since I first commited to joining the Inscribe programme and trying to make it as a professional writer have probably been the hardest of my whole life – and believe me, there have been some incredibly tough times over the past 50-odd years. I rediscovered that person who was born at a time when ‘being a writer’ was considered futile, when women’s social and family obligations were restrictive and stifled aspirations and opportunities. We were channelled into thinking that it was a man’s world and were discouraged from breaking the mould. So my life went on hold as I disappeared to France after a family tragedy, married a Frenchman, divorced, then spent 20 twenty years trying to bring up three children as a sole parent and a foreigner, isolated from my own family. But I have always had an independent and rebellious nature, nurtured by my Anglo-Parsi father.
Break the mould. Step outside of norms. Make waves. Look and think outside of the box – these aphorisms stood me in good stead to survive. So I did, storing stories and tales to tell in the hard-drive of my brain. Now I spew it all out and spice it up with a good dose of experience. Even smells accompany my words when they fall onto paper or into the laptop. How lucky I am, I tell myself when the going gets tough, when daily struggles impede the flow and productivity – when frustration at physical weaknesses and lack of energy fuel self-doubt and the will to go on. But I do. I have no choice because I am compelled to write, to comply with this compulsion to share what I have to say. Writing is the only opportunity that remains for me to exist as an element of society, as a human being. There’s not much more left, to be perfectly honest.
And I have things to say, so many comments on the society we live in or the people I see suffering daily around the world. Empathy is a powerful tool in my writing, but it's also a pain to bear when I'm unable to contribute as actively as I did in the past. So I continue to watch television, and I avidly search the internet, in order to understand and learn about what is happening in the world because the beat of a butterfly wing on far-off continents creates a storm that affects us here. I find inspiration everywhere. I write, I edit, I think ahead, I manage my disability’s restrictions and the pain that comes with it. I forge forward, but where I was once totally alone, now I have the support of people who believe in me.
It has taken three years to get to this stage in my ‘career’. Perhaps without any physical disability, I could have produced and achieved much more, but I have learned to be patient with my own limitations. I do sometimes rail and fall into the company of black dogs but I keep faith that things will improve – and they always do. I have become ‘gobby’ (thank you to the person who called me that – I take it as a compliment despite it not being meant that way!) and vociferous in saying how it is when, as a disabled person, I am excluded, forgotten or even abused by people in the street. I used to apologise to people who walked into me, knocked me over or pushed me aside at shop displays, buttocks-first into produce. I could spend a long time telling you about the hundreds of little things that happen to people like me. Can you imagine saying sorry at least twenty times to those very people who were at fault? Now I don’t. I stand up for myself. My experiences are translated into a voice for those who dare not speak out. I tell it how it is.
This is what writing has done for me – returned me to those times when I stood up in class at the age of eleven and defended a classmate in front of the headmistress but got sent down; when I finally confronted my domineering mother about going to university and was subsequently kicked out onto the streets; when I broke away from abusive relationships and had to endure years of hardship, the price to pay for my independence; when I fought without money and physical hunger to study in Paris and achieve my qualifications as Humanitarian Aid and International Development Coordinator; when I set up partnerships for traumatised refugee women and communities in the post-Soviet Republic of Georgia and fought to improve their lives; when I worked with BAME communities here, with the emphasis on refugee women. Now I shout out. I use my own detailed experiences as a wheelchair user and chronic illness sufferer to say, Enough, not cool, not good, time to change mentalities – understand the human beings around you and be kind.
My words become swords against those who disrespect; become visions for those who wish to understand; become blankets of emotions and kindness for those who are willing to feel. Thanks to my writing, which has been my companion within these empty four walls – the one who sits by my side, holds my hand, places a comforting arm around my shoulders, and gives tangible sensations to what is, essentially, a limited world indoors.
But on a brighter note (because I am an eternal optimist) – I do manage to break out occasionally! I will be travelling to Jerez de la Frontera and Seville in Spain on 29 August for thirteen days and exploring the inspiration of flamenco dance and music. I’ll be accompanied by my friend and writing colleague Amy Solis, who will be filming and helping me to post blogs and videos during my travel. Please sign up to my website and follow my story via the Twitter hashtag #PowerchairWriter. I will possibly have a couple of lessons in flamenco upper-body movements to use when performing in my wheelchair, so there are bound to be some good laughs in store.
During my trip, I will be tracing the movements of the North Indian-descended Romani people who migrated to Spain and brought their music and dance with them. I’ll be taking pleasure in the Royal Andalusian ‘dancing’ dressage horses (I used to go horse-riding). I'll touch them, feel their strength and admire their beauty. I might even try and find a performance of the female flamenco dancer who dances a duet in the bull-ring with a prancing white horse. This long-awaited journey will open my body and soul, and drench them in sensations, smells, sights and sounds. Then I will write, pour words onto paper, and sing and rejoice at the fullness of life.
It's one single word that represents so much: writing. It is my lifeline, it is my life.