With Great Literature Comes Great Writing.

Every writer has their inspiration, and aside from the whole disability thing I have going on, my main muse as a writer is other writers.

Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; I even had waterproof bath-tub books as a toddler. Before school, I had the entire bottom shelf of my parents’ bookcase filled with my own books, including ones that had been bought, and others that had been passed down through the family. Apparently I used to run to the bookshelf, grab as many books as I could possibly carry, and then plonk myself on my mum’s lap to read for the afternoon. On more than one occasion our beloved cat came to join these reading sessions.

I could actually read before I went to school; not because anybody pressured me to, but because I wanted to. I wrote my name in the sand pit when my parents were viewing potential nurseries for me to attend, which mum hastily erased to avoid any allegations of putting too much pressure on me. She even had to sign a consent form saying that I was allowed to read the books in the nursery, which were meant to be read to us at story-time, after they found me in the corner under a pile books quite happily reading them to myself.

Once I got to school, I got a small bookcase in my bedroom, which was placed at the end of the bed to make it easy to reach. I got into the habit of reading before going to sleep, something I still do sometimes, usually with the cat curled up on my feet.

The books changed as I grew older, but my love for them did not. I soon had favourite authors, first Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, then Charlie Higson, and as an adult Charles Dickens and Jeffrey Archer became firm favourites.

As I aged, I started to find an unexpected joy in writing my own stories, and probably levelled an entire rainforest in filled notepads. I tried to combine the detailed character development of Charles Dickens with the exhilarating action sequences of Jeffrey Archer, and the friendly, easy-to-read style of Michael Morpurgo.

As for the more humorously autobiographical style of Diary of a Disabled Person, I took inspiration from the likes of Gervais Phinn (a school inspector from the Yorkshire dales), James Herriot (the infamous Yorkshire vet), and Jennifer Worth (Call the Midwife). All of these writers presented their work as short, funny, but insightful anecdotes about one aspect of their lives; something which I strive to emulate in my own work.

In all of this, it is of course impossible for me to ignore the influence of my English teachers at school, particularly during my GCSE years. I was universally encouraged to keep writing, and to develop a unique style of my own. They pushed me to be the best that I could be, and was rewarded by receiving the English award for my year group at the end of my exams.

Trophy

(Coincidentally, this trophy is now being used as a weight to stop Tribble the hamster escaping from the top hatch of her cage.)

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t believe in concepts like fate and destiny, but I can’t help feeling just a little that perhaps I was born to write.

Diary of a Disabled Person: One Year On.

Tomorrow is Diary of a Disabled Person’s first birthday, and even in just one year, so much has changed.

When I first started the blog, the majority of the readers came from family, and members of an online Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) support group. It was wonderful to have the support of those around me, but I really wanted to reach out and educate people about CFS and disability who might not know much about these issues through lack of experience. For the first few months I struggled with this, until I had the idea to set up a Facebook page to support the blog, sharing whenever a new blog post was released, plus other bits and pieces picked up from around the internet in-between. Slowly, this began to attract a few more followers, and my readership started to grow.

The biggest boost to my readership came in July, when my first article for Cracked.com was published. At the very end of the article, a link to my blog and Facebook page were attached, and my readership went from approximately 30 views on the day each blog entry was released, to 5,000, with readers listed in almost 100 countries. I was flooded with messages from people all over the world, and surprisingly few of them were trolls. I was told stories of how I was helping people to come to terms with developing a disability, or inspiring others with disability to live a bit. I was also the recipient of many messages telling me that my attitude to disability was both refreshing and eye-opening; I had caught the attention of many able-bodied people, who were suddenly aware of some of the issues faced by the disabled, and actively wanted to help avoid those issues in the future. I even had correspondence from people with entirely different political views to mine saying that they liked my attitude to life, and respected me, even if they didn’t always agree with me.

After a month or so the buzz had settled down, but my regular fan base had more than doubled, and steadily increased thereafter. The release of another Cracked.com article seemed to have a similar effect. Now I have over 80 followers of my blog, almost 68,000 views in total, and more than 400 followers on my Facebook page, and have regular conversation with a few fans. It’s amazing how quickly things have developed. A little less than a month ago, I was also nominated for the Leibster award, a German award given to bloggers by other bloggers celebrating wholesome, fulfilling blogs with the potential to expand even further. I will be accepting this next week!

I now have far more confidence in my abilities as a writer, and I consider it to be one of the most important things in my life, perhaps even having the potential to work as a career. I am happy that I can express myself so coherently, and with such freedom.

With that, I want to thank all of you for taking the time out of each week to read my ramblings, to give me good feedback, and to show your support. I can only hope that Diary of a Disabled Person continues to flourish.

Words Without Meaning.

Even as a young child, I found great freedom in writing. It was a way for me to escape the bullying I experienced at school, and to become immersed in a world different to my own. To be able to sink into someone else’s problems helped me not to think about mine, but the countless pages I filled with half-developed characters and meagre plots are long gone. They were words without meaning; I knew in my mind where the characters would go, and what they would say and do, and I never let anyone else see much of my work. The stories were already told. Besides the escapism, there was no purpose to the writing, and as such the joy I found in it soon dispersed.

I find that the pleasure of writing comes not from the putting of pen to paper, but in the knowledge that others will read the words you wrote, and will perhaps think about them and learn from them, and maybe even be emotionally moved by them. It is this that prompted me to create “Diary of a Disabled Person”, and it is this that keeps me filling the pages of notebooks while sat in coffee shops; a perfectly typical writer with a message to send.

This blog is not aimed at those with disabilities themselves, although I am extremely pleased that many disabled people have given me positive feedback and support, which means that I am representing the community well, and have avoided offending anyone. However, this blog is in fact targeted at those without disabilities.

Disabled people know what living with a disability is like; they do not need to be told once again by someone in a similar situation that there are issues in the way disability is incorporated into society. While I accept that disability support groups help some people, I find the culture of a large group of disabled people meeting up to sit off to one side moaning about being disabled irritating; nothing will ever change if the rest of the world doesn’t know that there are issues. Nothing will ever change if we don’t try to integrate with the rest of society. Martin Luther King had the support of the African-American community when he gave his infamous “I have a dream speech”, but the people he wanted to target were the white supremacists. It would be like preaching to the converted; it wouldn’t have an effect.

Those not living with a disability, or not living or working with someone who is disabled, is probably oblivious to some of the issues faced on a daily basis; how could someone be expected to know about something they have had no experience of? It is not a criticism, it is a fact, and I started this blog to address that fact. In my attempts to integrate with society, and to preach my message to those who have not heard it, I have made some headway in the battle to fully incorporate disability into modern society. The more people become aware of the issues, the more they will fight back against them, and support those with disabilities. Many people discriminate by accident; by not switching on an automatic door or lift, or parking over a ramp. Educating people as to why those things are significant will make an impact on society.

Perhaps, if anything, I’m trying to stir up a little trouble. The good kind of trouble, I might add. I want people to talk about disability. I want people to ask me questions. I want people to think a little more carefully about their actions towards anyone with a disability. If enough people raise their voices, then the authorities cannot deny hearing us.

I didn’t write this blog to generate sympathy, but empathy, and it is this that gives my words meaning.

Special Announcement!

Recently, I’ve been working on building up my professional writing portfolio, and this includes doing some freelance work for Cracked.com. My debut article for the international magazine has just been published, and can be accessed here:

http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-my-disability-actually-improved-my-life/

I aim to continue working with Cracked.com, who have been extremely supportive, and are the magazine to give me my first big break.

This week’s proper blog post is down below; so don’t forget to check that out too! Welcome to anyone who has found this blog via Cracked.com!