Little words, big moment

Every time we move trans-Atlantically, my psyche gets rattled. The last time we made the move, the rattling forced me to ask myself what I want. I was a nutritional therapist and Journey practitioner, and I was halfway through an acupuncture degree. If I wanted to carry on with acupuncture, I’d have to start from the beginning and spend another four years at it. Did I really want to do it that much, I asked myself?

It turned out the answer was a big, fat “no”. But although the decision was profoundly liberating, it left a big, fat void. If I wasn’t going to be an acupuncturist, and I didn’t want to be a nutritional therapist anymore, what was I going to be?

I asked my Mum. Mothers always know.

I sent an email, asking Mum to fill in the blank: “When Natalie was a little girl, she spent all her time _________.” And the answer came back: “writing.”

So I’ve spent the last two years taking amazing writing classes to find out what kind of writing I want to write. I’ve taken classes that are based around poetry, memoir and short stories, and I’ve loved all of them. But sometimes the homework has felt like a chore, and I haven’t known if it was because it’s hard to learn something new, or because the specific type of writing wasn’t floating my boat.

And whenever new acquaintances asked me what I did, I’d reply that I was a nutritional therapist, even though that hasn’t been the truth for a number of years. I couldn’t say “writer” because I wasn’t. I wasn’t a literary genius like Ian McEwan or Flannery O’Connor. And the only other type of writer that I could envisage was the tortured, blocked, I-just-need-the-right-break stereotype that spends all day eating crisps on the sofa in Rom Coms. That definitely wasn’t me.

A few weeks ago, I started my third term of short story writing. I’d loved the first two terms, so I was looking forward to this one. But I found that the whole week, from one class to the next, was taken up by my homework. I was procrastinating, struggling or cramming. It was like giving birth every week. Painfully, laboriously, excruciatingly. On top of that, I felt permanently guilty about all the things I wasn’t doing and thought I should, or wanted to do and thought I shouldn’t.

Slowly, it occurred to me that the thing I wanted to do most was write this blog. This silly, low-brow, online diary that I started four years and nearly 400 posts ago to keep family and friends back in Britain informed. This unimportant, insignificant journal that changes the way I see the world from being just a personal experience to a shareable story. This glorious activity that makes my heart sing.

At the weekend, Gabriella and I were waiting in a shop for a quote. The salesman, making conversation, asked what I do. And, for the first time ever, I replied, “I write.” I didn’t feel I had to pretend to be as great as Amy Hempel or Aldous Huxley, and I didn’t feel like a fraud. I felt empowered.

Those two little words represented a Big Moment. I’m a writer.

Hallelujah squirrel

About Natalie Gotts

I've been a management consultant, a nutritional therapist, a Journey practitioner and a mother. I've sold ostriches in China and personal safety devices in Hong Kong. Whatever I've done, and wherever I've been, I've written about it.
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6 Responses to Little words, big moment

  1. ccassinerio says:

    Knowing I’ve recently been privy to only a tiny percentage of your writing, this is the best from you that I’ve read in a while. It’s unchained Natalie once again, and I love it.

  2. Lyndsay says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs and am glad that you’ve discovered your passion.

  3. Caiti says:

    You have found your voice x

  4. Penny says:

    I love reading your blogs. Always looking forward to the next one. Just returned from Chicago and Joanna (whom you haven’t met yet) enjoys them too. I’m sure you two would like each other a lot!

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