Having read about so many truly gifted and talented artists and authors who have already been profiled, I feel very humbled to have been asked to take part in this series. First of all, I must admit that I do not really think of myself as a writer. I’m a blogger, first and foremost, and some of you may have already come across me at my main blog, The Garden Window or through my liturgical Akathists blog.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I went to stay for a few days with some childless friends of my grandparents. I was immensely fond of Gwen and Len, who were frequent visitors to our house, and I had a wonderful time at their home. Gwen took me with her when she went to visit an elderly friend of hers in a nursing home. I can’t now remember what this elderly lady’s name was, but I vividly remember her asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said without any hesitation that I wanted to be a writer. She gave me great encouragement, and I did indeed write many stories in the rest of my childhood, all of which have long since disappeared, which is probably a very good thing indeed, thinking back to some of the plots…
Schoolwork, then university, marriage and caring for my growing young family gave me little time to write, although I often thought wistfully of my “writing days.” Eventually we moved to a house with a wonderful garden which was so magical, so like the Secret Garden, that I simply had to try and describe it, and so The Garden Window blog was born. I realised, when the youngest of my four daughters was a small toddler, that my days were merging into one long, sleep-deprived blur and I was rapidly forgetting lots of the things that happened in my daily life, so I made a conscious decision to blog regularly. Some posts were funny, some sad, some were good and some were very painful indeed, but I didn’t want to lose these memories, and after almost eight years of blogging, I can honestly say that starting my blog was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
A few months ago, I went through the archives of the blog and read the posts right from the very beginning; it was wonderful to recapture those memories and see how I had developed and changed as a woman and as a mother and how my faith as an Orthodox Christian has also developed. For me, blogging has become an online journal which I choose to share with family, friends and those who have become my dear cyber-friends. It has been a long, long journey winding through family tragedies, moments of joy and episodes of hilarity. I have written about the devastating heartbreak of my brother’s sudden illness and death, sweet and funny things which the children have said or done, domestic disasters, how miserable it makes me feel not being able to get to church and worship with my church family and the truly awful isolation of not being able to afford to travel the long distance to my spiritual home for months at an end. In recent years I have written brief reviews of each book I have read and I really do seem to spend a lot of my life reading!
I have chronicled my children’s encounters with Christ and and their growing faith, setting up an icon corner in the new house and the delight of watching my husband hanging up a lampada for me, getting new pets and watching old pets die, seeing my eldest daughter getting married and the joy of having a new son-in-law, and my second daughter meeting her wonderful boyfriend.
My two younger daughters are growing up fast, and I am cherishing every moment, knowing that all too soon, they will be ready to leave the nest, but also knowing that I have many moments recorded on the blog to remind me of them vividly as youngsters.
The only downside of blogging is that once something has been put into cyberspace, it is very difficult if not impossible to permanently expunge it. Only on one occasion have I chronicled something which, after some reflection, I would not really want to stay on the public domain and have subsequently deleted it, but this is an ever-present hazard of having an online presence that needs to be kept in mind. I do not blog using my real name, nor do I mention the town in which I live, both in order to preserve my family’s privacy and in the belief that is wise to be cautious about putting too much of one’s life on display. Some weeks I simply do not manage to blog at all if life has been particularly frantic or even just particularly boring.
Some things are simply far too painful to discuss at the time they occur, and may not be blogged about till many months after the event when I have had a chance to reflect, pray and ponder what I have learnt from it. Some things I have written might not generate any comment from my readers whereas on other occasions, something I have written has generated an enormous amount of interest and obviously touched a chord with my readers. This is all part of the fun of blogging.
One thing I have come to greatly appreciate and cherish is the wonderful support and camaraderie amongst bloggers. When things have been difficult, I have been heartened and cheered by the kind words and assurances of prayers, and there is the feeling of belonging to a vast family, where we are indeed all touched by each others’ griefs, sorrows, joys and absurdities. To then go to Liturgy and recieve the Mysteries, knowing that so many of my blog friends are also receiving the Body and Blood of Christ makes the concepts of the Community of Saints, the Church Militant and Triumphant so very special. I may not get to meet many of my readers and cyber-friends in this life, but the friendships are very dear to me nonetheless.
All things change, and as my use of Facebook has grown, I have found that I seem to have less time to blog, and in common with some of my blog friends, I am now seriously questioning whether Facebook is of benefit to me. Although great fun and a quick and easy way to keep in touch with people, Facebook is really not an easy medium for discussing anything extensively or particularly seriously, and is quite difficult to go back and revisit conversation threads, whereas it is simple to search one’s own blog posts and comments. I do actually prefer using my blog for discussion purposes, and am certainly hoping to be able to get back into a more stable blogging pattern – but at the moment, the demands on my time are dictated by the needs of caring for my elderly bedbound mother and not so much by the needs of caring for my youngsters…and so life changes yet again.
Have I achieved my childhood dream of being a real writer?
I don’t think I have, but I do seem to write quite a lot, one way or another. I write fan-fiction for an online community, I have a separate writing blog at Miscellaneous Mumblings and have successfully completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing a 50,000 word story during the month of November for the last three years. I have yet to find the time to successfully edit and proof-read these offerings, let alone even contemplate publishing them, but I have really enjoyed doing them, and I love writing even if it is primarily for my own benefit.
Elizabeth is 48 and has been Orthodox for almost twenty years. She lives in South Wales, UK, is married and has been blessed with four daughters whose ages range from 25 to 10. She loves history, studying Latin, reading and creative writing and helps run the library and book club at her local elementary school on a voluntary basis.