Virginia Woolf, a life-long diarist and chronicler of everything, wrote that on days where she didn’t write in her diary, it felt as though she’d left the tap running – all that life, all those words, going down the drain. I’ve felt a bit the same as, all summer, I’ve focussed on getting my house in order, dealing with workmen and plumbers and bathrooms and boilers and letting all my words go to waste…
I have failed to do what I pledged when I first set out: to write and publish a poem or story every day in 2017. My last post was on July 26th. I’ve had 68 days off. I won’t lie: it’s been quite nice. However…
I’ve been reading a lot, for work, about Mindset Theory, about how when it comes to learning and life, it’s preferable to nurture in our children – and ourselves – a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset. In a nutshell: a fixed mindset would have us see failure as a sign that we should stop trying because we’re clearly not good at this and never will be; a growth mindset would see failure as an important part of learning and growing. We fall down, we get up, we learn.
A friend told me last week that as of today, there are exactly 13 weeks left until the end of 2017. It’s the last quarter of the year and I’ve decided I’m not going to let it go down the drain. I’m going to get back up and keep writing. Although I feel rusty, my plumbing is brilliant and I have the luxury of a hot rain shower. I’ve no excuse.
This summer, I also read a staggering statistic. It said that by the time they are 5 years old, children of higher-income, educated families will have heard 3 million more words than those from ‘C2DE’ familes. C2DE is code for working-class, less-educated, low-income, sometimes described, controversially, as ‘hard to reach.’
In truth, this particular statistic probably calls for some interrogation – 3 million? Really? – but in any case, reports show that such a deficit in the early years can dramatically affect a child for the rest of their life.
Basically, words are essential for growth. And a privilege.
I think, often, of this line from my favourite Pablo Neruda poem, Every Day You Play:
‘My words rained over you, stroking you…’
I love the thought of words as gentle, nurturing rain. As love, really. They shouldn’t be out of anyone’s reach. Like rain, they will sometimes run down the drain. But as Neruda knows (read the rest of his poem…) they are also something to blossom beneath.