Being one of 7 children, I remember there always being some semblance of chaos around me growing up. Accompanied with that was a sense of competition. My family are high achievers.
Because of my squeaky voice (which hasn’t evolved into anything else even by middle age) I felt that writing it down gave me more of a chance of being heard and heard authentically and fully not just presumed heard or ‘half heard’.
Sharing a bedroom with my 2 sisters it was difficult to get any privacy. But keeping a diary under lock and key under my pillow meant that I had my own private world to come back to. And I didn’t have to share it with anyone else. It also didn’t cost any money to maintain my creative indulgence.
There is a presumed element of social responsibility when you grow up in a large family. That you will always be happy to share, that you must think of others before yourself. There is also the survival tactic of having to roll with the punches – that it is ok to be talked over, constantly, that it is ok to have someone always speaking on your behalf. I am a twin and for a not very logical reason my sister was always referred to as part of the collective ‘older ones’ whereas I was lumped in with ‘the younger’ ones. This used to rile me! My sister was admittedly bigger than me in stature but only 10 minutes older! When writing I could be as big or as small as I wanted. Now some 30 plus years on, sometimes I write to work things out in my life, to get some perspective.
The irony of being part of a large family is that you can feel very alone even though you are hardly ever by yourself. The act of writing demands solitude and I felt nourished by that, by having to find physical space to write in. I could take my craft anywhere – it was portable – up a tree, on a step, behind the shed and it was something I could do by myself. I was in my own space. I also didn’t have to answer to anyone when I wrote.
I also had a fear of being overlooked, of being taken for granted. This is something I still wrestle with years on. Writing gave my life substance and proof that yes I did have opinions, feelings, dreams, and they held value. That I existed as a whole being not just part of a collective.
Having so many siblings has also been a great joy to me. I appreciate their perspective on life and what they have taught me through their own experiences. I guess some people survive in big families easier than others. For me writing was about survival above everything else.