Why Do I Write?

Sometimes we need to go back to the beginning. To understand why we started to do something, so we can appreciate the journey. I have been creatively blocked for a while and most of the art I have created has felt forced. I decided to take a short break from writing poetry and posting it to Instagram, not because I don’t adore the community on there, because I do, but because I had forgotten my roots, my reasons for writing. I started to question why I write and it led me to find some of my old poetry, poems and stories I wrote as a young child and teen.

When I opened up the dusty Pokemon tin that lives in a drawer beneath my bed, I smiled at the stack of paper that had been folded neatly, hidden away in a box for nearly two decades. This is where it truly began for me as a writer. I started penning down poetry when I was 7 years old and stories at 10 years old. One of the first poems, that I managed to find, was about a dog and it was written when I was 8 years old.

A sweet poem with simple rhymes. Although I am quite impressed that I rhymed “food” with “intrude” at such a young age. Once I knew how to rhyme, I was unstoppable. Many poems followed. I was a unique child. I even knew it at the time. I always felt different, I was compelled to carry a notebook and pen and write, sketch, doodle anything that lived inside my innocent and growing mind.

I always say to people, even now, that I didn’t choose poetry, it chose me. Whenever I feel uninspired or want to give up writing altogether, I remind myself that some things are much bigger than me. The universe wanted me to be a writer. It wanted me to be a storyteller. I must continue. I must write. It’s in the innermost parts of my soul.

As I grew up, my language and themes naturally evolved. I would write about the seasons, dreams and what I can only describe as puppy love. Rhyming couplets, dotting my i’s with hearts. I did have a chuckle at some of the things I found. I was drawn to a poem titled Dreams, that I penned when I was 11-years-old and felt a warming sense of nostalgia, remembering a positive little girl that believed in the beauty of her dreams and had not yet been broken by the upheaval of this calamitous world.

Life is like a balancing beam, if you fall get up again.

— advice from my 11-year-old self.

At 12 years old, I was more ambitious than ever to pen stories. But no one knew it. Everyone saw a shy preteen who liked to perform on a stage to grow her confidence. But I kept the writer part of me hidden. I became self-conscious, as most teenage girls do. I didn’t believe in my talent. But in hindsight, reading this work back with adult eyes. There is clearly talent emerging…

The sky is griddled with pink and grey. Black rain falls. Moonlight filters through the trees. Each blade of grass glistens, spiked by frost. The breath that escapes me is dazzled. Like a stone falling in a pond, circles and circles of love ripple through me.

— excerpt from Descriptions (aged 12)

By 15 years old, I had written many stories and poems. A lot of them were typed at this stage, as like most teenage girls growing up in the early 2000’s, I was glued to a computer screen. But, I found this short story, a poignant tale of a daughter visiting her mother’s grave. I guess my love for melancholic stories and using emotive language to draw the reader in started here.

My throat was dry like the ancient stone walls surrounding the church. I knelt down, holding back the tears. The pain of guilt overwhelmed me.

— Excerpt from a short story (15 years old)

Now I fast forward, to now. At 28 years old. I have a published poetry book Darkness & Light, which is a ten-time bestseller on Amazon. 4.5k followers on my poetry page on Instagram. A successful collaborative poetry project called First Line Poets and an anthology on the way. I am proud of myself. Despite the setbacks, the obstacles, the years that passed by without putting pen to paper, I truly found my love for writing again. I think we always find our way back to things that are meant to be.

So, I fondly tucked away these poems and stories back into my childhood memory box. They have given me the push I needed. To keep moving forward. To keep writing. To keep carving stories and writing my truth. The moment that my pen stops moving, I lose the essence of me, who I really am. I am a writer, a poet, a storyteller. Stories live in the marrow of my bones. It is up to me now, to write them and share them with the world.

Twenty-Eight

Tomorrow is my 28th birthday.

And like I do every year, I am writing a birthday eve blog post. This is something that I like to do, to reflect on my life for the past 365 days. 28. Sometimes I feel like I fit into the mould of “old soul”, I have been through so much in my short life that I sometimes feel older than the number designated to me. I often feel like I have been here before and I know that I can be old fashioned in many ways. Other times I still feel like a girl playing grown-up, with a childhood whimsy in my heart that I has never left me and I don’t believe it ever will. Do we ever really “grow up” or is it just another social paradigm that we buy into like everything else? I think I believe the latter. It’s important for us to nurture our inner child and let go of the responsibilities of being an adult every once in a while.

Time is accelerating fast, I am heading towards 30 but it doesn’t scare me any more, not like it once did. Getting older has helped me to cement my ethics, morals, beliefs and perspective of the world. With age, comes wisdom, new experiences and memories – some that I will cherish and some that I would rather forget. In my life, I now have balance, calm, self-love, gratitude and purpose. All the things that I was searching to find in the chaos that was my early twenties.

So, there is no escaping the elephant in the room. The pandemic. 2020 was a crazy year. The world felt like a reversed magnet, everything felt wrong somehow and all humanity could do was adapt. So that’s what I did. I used the lockdown and isolation to get back to words. Pick up a pen and find my voice again. I had no excuses. There was no job or career to distract me. Just like the rest of the world, I spent my 27th year of life at home, staring at the same four walls.

This could have been detrimental for my mental health, I could have dwelled on something that I couldn’t control and spiralled into a state of anxiety but luckily, I have spent a long time healing and working on myself so that didn’t happen. What did happen was – I PUBLISHED A BOOK! I have dreamt of being a published author since the age of seven. Once I knew what a book was, I wanted to write one, see my name on the cover. Growing up, I dabbled in short story and novel writing, but poetry has always been the medium for me. So, I joined the Instagram writing community under the handle name @emmajanepoetry, used the support of the writers I met there to build my confidence and in November last year, I self-published Darkness & Light, my first poetry collection. You can buy it here.

Then something incredible happened! My book became an Amazon bestseller!!! Multiple times!!! It really was a dream come true and I am so proud of myself. Not only did I immerse myself in the Instagram writing community, but I created a collaborative poetry project called First Line Poets, 125 writers from across the world coming together to swap first lines to inspire poetry. The project is something that fills me with joy and I really love being the leader of this inspiring initiative I created.

There is a lot to be grateful for as my 28th year approaches. I have an amazing partner who is my world, I have great friends and family around me, I have just landed an amazing job as a Creative Consultant and I really enjoy it. Life is good. No matter what obstacles come my way, I know that I am strong enough to overcome them. My hopes for the upcoming year are that I continue to be happy, content and feel inspired to create. If there is anything that the year 2020 has taught the world and me, it is that everything you know can be gone in a second, so enjoy, live in the moment, let go of your need to control everything and focus only on the things that bring you joy. Life is unpredictable. And I have learned that no amount of wishing, organising with coloured post-it notes or filling planners with goals will change that. I am learning to let go of the need to know what is coming next. I spend more time in the present moment than I ever have. Sure, I think of the future. But this year has changed me, now I live with the philosophy of living my life – one day at a time.

Emma-Jane

The Beauty Of The Night (Poem)

The beauty of the night,
when the world is still.
Ink covered fingers,
blank page and quill.

A writing muse awakens,
with the rising of the moon.
Words set in motion
like a wild typhoon.
Dark letters fall on white,
a new vision created.
The muse slept with the sun,
inspiration waited.

As the stars emerged,
they shined their light.
The writer felt at home
with the beauty of the night. 
- EJ 
©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.

 

Never Meant For Me (Poem)

A treacherous hurricane,
spiraling out of control.
A fire, alive with light,
burning too bright.
A blur of making the
impossible, possible.
a haze of anxiety,
dead on my feet.
Worries on my pillow, 
expectations to meet.
My mind, teeming with
images of my
impending calamity.
My heart, gripped in
an iron vice.
I was planning an
escape route,
to find serenity,
to leave the chaos.
Then one day. I stopped.
I walked away.
From something never
meant for me.
I locked the door.
Stored the memories
as lessons.
I smiled, I am free.
I threw the key into
the flames.
I was no longer a
slave to the wrong
choices I had made.
The biggest lesson
I learned.
The words I etch
into my skin like a tattoo.
I can do anything.
But not everything
- EJ 
©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.
Darling,
I’m not going to lie to you.
I won’t fill your mind with quixotic fairytales,
vacant promises and jubilant dreams.
I’m not going to hold your hand, reassure you,
tell you that your life will be ideal,
it will be complicated. That is the truth.
You will struggle.
A tiny speck of stardust called hope,
will become the elixir you need the most.
Your pillow, stained with tears.
Your heart, heavy and broken.
Your mind, a cloud of chaos.
Moments of isolation, panic, fear.
Blinded by a forest of darkness.
Lost without a compass to guide you.
But what you don’t know darling,
is how strong you are.
You will not see the light
for some time,
but when you do,
it will radiate.
Flow beneath
your skin, enlighten you.
Darling, you will rise like a phoenix.
You beautiful warrior.
You can do it. I believe in you.
Struggle, to find your strength.
Fall, to find your bliss.
Hope, to find your way.
EJ
©Emma-Jane Barlow, all words are my own.








Dear Poet, Welcome to the 21st Century…

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

A few months ago, I was pondering the idea of posting my poetry online. For me, poetry has always been a solitary activity. I would scribble rhymes and metaphors onto paper, close my notebook and I would never read it again, never mind letting other people read and comment on it. Then, I decided that if I ever wanted to publish a poetry book (which has always been a dream of mine), then people would ACTUALLY have to read my poetry, right? Now, social media has its advantages and disadvantages. When you post something online, it is there forever, you lose control of where it can be shared or saved. This scared me a little, when I thought about my vulnerable musings being there for the whole world to read.

I lost my way as a writer for a long time. I have spent the last seven years of my twenties living my life, experiencing the good and the bad, I would write from time to time but never took it seriously enough. I do believe I am finally in a place not only to write again, but I actually have something to write about. Poetry has been the way I have expressed myself from the age of five. I’m not exaggerating here. From the moment I started school, even if I couldn’t articulate and write my thoughts down yet, it was there. I would make up stories in my mind and I had a lot of imaginary friends. Once I knew what rhyming was, I quickly started making little poems up and I loved it. I actually remember my first poem I wrote down on paper, I was seven years old.

In March this year, I created a poetry account on Instagram @EmmaJanePoetry, I wrote a poem on paper, typed it up, placed it on a colourful background and clicked upload. I could feel my heart thudding in my chest as I waited. What have I done? What if people don’t like my poetry? What if people are mean and say hurtful things? What if I’m never taken seriously as a poet or a writer because I have posted these words on an Instagram page? My stream of worries disappeared when I saw what happened next. Slowly but surely, people not only started following me and reading my poetry, they commented on my writing ability, told me that my words spoke to them, made them feel something. I had personal messages from people commending my poetry and asking when I was releasing a collection. I’m no Rupi Kaur, I have 387 followers. But I don’t want to be an Instagram influencer, I don’t want fame and fortune. I just want to write poetry and have someone to share it with. I want people to read my work and Instagram is a good place to start.

I’ve just watched a poetry documentary on YouTube about the ongoing debate between academics and young people who disagree on whether the Instagram effect on poetry is a positive or a negative one. It’s what inspired this blog post. I believe that there is space for everyone in the writing world. Commenting on whether poetry is “good” or “bad” is completely subjective. Poetry is personal for the reader. Yes, there are people on Instagram posting two or three line quote-type musings and calling it poetry. Let them. Poetry has never fit into one box. I have read some classical poetry that academics rave about and I thought it was useless drivel. But hey, that’s my opinion.

I think the real problem here is not about the definition of what a poem is, it’s about technique. As a Creative Writing graduate myself, I had to study poetry, learn about technique, different styles, how to create imagery in a poem. I took the time to learn about my craft. I think some writers are angry that young people, with no writing skills, are stringing a few generic phrases together, posting them online and calling themselves “a poet.” I get it, I really do. But like I said, there is space in the writing world for everyone. Spending time ranting about it just makes you an insufferable snob in my opinion. Compare this idea to art. You have your Mona Lisa portrait, that is considered to be one of the greatest portraits in the world alongside a modern piece of art, a few crisp packets hanging on a piece of string. One person may love classical art, so they deem the crisp packet art as rubbish, unworthy and unoriginal. However, some modern artists may respectfully admire the Mona Lisa but prefer unique and unconventional representations of art such as the crisp packets. Poetry is no different. We all like different things.

What I have noticed since I became a part of the Instagram poetry community is there are some extremely talented poetic voices out there, that would have never had their work read without social media. They may not have the confidence to go marching up to a publishing house and say, “publish my poetry please.” By sharing their work, they are receiving a positive response from their readers and this increases their confidence in their writing ability, what’s so wrong with that? Artists and writers want the same thing, to get their work “seen.” We live in a world with social media at the centre, we can choose to embrace it or ignore it, the choice is ours.

Poetry is changing. I know that by posting my poetry online, I am accepting that this is the 21st century and culture is adapting to be part of the digital world. We now have many platforms to share our words with millions of people. Why not utilise and use it to share our art, whatever that may be? We live in a society that likes to put labels on things. It makes us uncomfortable if we don’t categorise or explain something. If someone ever branded me as an InstagramPoet or an InstaPoet, I would politely correct them. Not because I would be ashamed of that label. I would tell them that yes I publish my poetry on Instagram, a social media platform. I also post it on Facebook, my blog and Twitter. But I think of that little girl, with her notebook and pen, writing poems about her imaginary friends and I smile. I always have been and always will be, no matter where I share my poems, simply… a poet.

A Published Poet

We are living in uncertain times at the moment. What better way to unite people than with the power of poetry? One of my writer friends had an idea to create a pandemic poetry collection and raise money for charity. She asked me if I wanted to contribute and of course I said yes.

Blue Rose is a collection of poetry with 21 poems and 14 contributors. All proceeds of the book will be going to Samaritans. It contains the different perspectives of the current global pandemic, words from different writers about the significant time in our history we currently find ourselves in.

It’s an eclectic collection, my poem entitled “Positive Pandemic” is in there and many other talented, poetic voices, positivity shines through the page as you read this fabulous collection, I highly reccommend it. If you would like to purchase a physical copy of the book, you can buy it for £7 on Amazon, alternatively, you can download the Kindle version from Amazon for £3.50. Link below.

https://amzn.to/3dKWBPZ

NANOWRIMO 2018

TBWD NANOWRIMO

I think you have to be a special kind of crazy to attempt NaNoWriMo during your first year of teaching. Well, I think I might just be the right amount of crazy to attempt it.

I completed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014. I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I wrote my first adult novel and it was a great achievement. I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a longer piece of writing, as I was used to writing poetry and short stories. Over the last few years, I stopped writing. Life happened and I stopped putting pen to paper. The ideas were always there but my motivation to actually write them disappeared.

This year, I have started to slowly put pen to paper and write again. I have had an idea for a children’s book for a little while now and I’ve decided to use National Novel Writing Month to begin writing it. I am not going to give myself a target of  50,000 words. With my crazy teaching schedule, it wouldn’t be achievable. Instead, I’m going to give myself a more manageable goal of 5,000 words. Although, I would be amazingly happy if I even reached 1,000! The whole idea is for me to START writing this children’s novel. No pressure. Just a chance to fall in love with writing again.

For The Love Of Writing.

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Today I wrote a short story, for fun! This may sound like a simple task for a writer, as writer’s write, right? Well, I did write A LOT once upon a time. I had notebooks full of ideas, I had motivation to put pen to paper and I really enjoyed the craft of writing fiction and poetry. I did a three year degree in creative writing because I loved it so much. I completed an adult novel a few years ago (it now sits in the bottom of my desk drawer). I was moving onto writing a children’s novel when, well, life happened.

I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my writing muse over the past couple of years. It wasn’t a writer’s block that stopped my flow of ideas and writing, but a life block. A lot of circumstances in my life should have pushed me towards writing but instead, it pushed me further away from it. Writing was at the bottom of my priority list and I didn’t realise the negative effect of doing so. Writing is a big part of who I am and by not doing it to freely express my thoughts and ideas, I was losing a piece of myself. Over time, I could feel the idea of me being a writer and writing becoming a memory, a version of myself that I could never get back.

Last week, I was in Cardiff with my partner, when I came across The Writer’s Toolbox in Waterstones. I had seen it previously and never bought it, but something was pulling me towards it. With the help of The Writer’s Toolkit, Best Writing Prompts Daily Facebook page and reading some of my old writing (to remind myself that I’m not terrible). I was inspired enough to write something today. The ideas are there. They never disappeared. It was my inner critic, the confidence in myself that I was a great writer and I had something to say that stopped. For some reason, one day, I just started to question if my writing was any good. This nagging self-doubt stopped me from actually writing. It caused me to stop doing what I loved. I don’t want it to happen again.

I shouldn’t care if my writing is any good or even if it has an audience. I just need to get back to the reason why I started writing to begin with. I need to find the joy in writing again and today I accomplished that. I’m starting my NQT year in a few weeks. Which is the first year of primary teaching. I’ll have my own class, a lot of responsibility, a lot of challenges ahead.

But I need to make time for my writing. Writing fiction or poetry for me is an escape. Such as reading a book, playing a video game or even doing a jigsaw puzzle is for others. I love to lose myself in a fictional world that I create. I love to take my feelings and emotions and turn it into a beautiful poem. This will not be a fluke. I will make sure that for the love of writing, I continue to make time for it.  I must, I am a writer after all and that’s what writer’s do…. WRITE!