Being an artist to me means writing is my therapeutic outlet by Maria Baker

  • Name: Maria Baker
  • Occupation: English Tutor
  • University degree: BA Journalism
  • Favourite Artist: Lang Leav
  • Favourite Colour: Mint Green
  • Favorite Sound: Birds chirping outside my window early in the morning, the clickety-clack sound of the keyboard.

Being an artist to me means writing is my therapeutic outlet. Writing is the bedrock of good mental health for me. It works as an outlet, I spiel my woes, projecting them onto fictitious characters. I filter my experiences into stories, it’s an entanglement of reality shifting into fiction. Somehow laying out my troubles like this, takes me out of the equation and I can see more clearly. It also helps push me into the cold waters out of my comfort zone; it forced me to believe in my skills further. Something therapy does itself is exposing you to the scary world bit by bit.

I didn’t think of myself as a genuine writer right away. It wasn’t as soon my hand could form magical words, going to uni for my degree, when I worked for work experience for a leading multimedia agency, or even when my byline was published in print. It was the time I stepped into the Guildford Spectrum, like every other weekend during the autumn/winter season for a hockey game. The ice rink welcomed me swifter than my friends could with its choppy breeze to the face, and my throat was tugging me the whole time. For months, my friend said my writing was going places. I didn’t think much of a destination at the time, my writing was a timid attempt at trying to crack open a look at the bigger world, the industry was daunting, but it was something I enjoyed. But she was clawing at my potential and had bigger dreams for me, the ones I prayed for but was too afraid to see come true. The hockey game was a mess for the first period, though it needn’t have mattered, as my mind was claiming elsewhere the whole time. I thought: why would I want to change my writing into something daunting? It was the only antidote to my anxiety, and it held my hand supportively through my depression, so why would I shift the scene to make it the antagonist of the story? It was a new reality I had found myself in where anxiety was king, and my comfort was in peril. My friend swung herself around where she was seated in front of me, “let’s go,” stars painted her eyes bright as the lights overhead. How could I say no?

Michelle Obama had once said: “Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility.” If I had backed down then, my writing wouldn’t make progress, and then it wouldn’t have been therapy to me, it would have claimed to be the very device that stunted my growth. It felt like the longest lung dragging walk to the other side of the rink to meet the guy in charge of my future. He was a sweet man, but anyone that held a wisp of your dreams in their grasp marked a little intimidation.

He asked me why I wanted to do this, “it wasn’t because she pulled you into it?” thumbing my friend, he joked. I would be lying if I hadn’t said it was a dream come true if I had got to write about hockey and that I did. I was Bambi skirting on ice as I clambered to my first interview with a player well over 6ft. My hands clammy and my voice jittered as I spoke, but it was then, when I finally said it to myself: “well you did it now, you’re a bonafide journalist.” and believed it.

After this, I called my writing exposure therapy. It yanked me out of my comfort zone, struck a jabbing finger to my chest and went off about exposing my deepest thoughts and fears. Face them and bleed. It’s not necessarily the reason why I write, but the cathartic sense is a welcoming side effect.

My route towards fiction writing began with a rocky start. I was never really good with English, so it was a surprise that when I was thirteen, I had a sudden urge to write my first horror short story, and in the same winks of summer, I branched out further and wrote my first novel-length romance prose. Maybe just a little nudge to how I have become an avid horror and romance writer now. After that, I knew what I wanted to do.

When it came down to earning a living, I became an English tutor. I teach kids about the average age of eight, the wonders of writing. The majority wanted none of it. They were hesitant to tap into their imaginations, but this was the most exciting part of my job, it was to persuade them otherwise, that writing and art, in general, is freeing, it’s therapeutic, it’s an outlet for a lot of people. I remember when I said those words: “you can write just about anything.” How their sullen faces immediately lit up and to my humour, came up with the most whacky descriptions to write. Though, that’s what writing is all about. You word vomit what’s been rattling in your brain and sort out all the mess later. That’s the beauty of it, that writing is about accepting imperfections.

My days usually wrap around my writing schedule, I had just spent a full month of July doing Camp NaNoWriMo writing a draft of my novel. Other moments include writing for writing contests. I do occasionally wonder what really got me into writing fiction seriously. I believe it was when I started reading Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles when I hit gold. I wanted to romanticize words as she did. My interest in journalism piqued thanks to fashion, over the years, my interests have changed, but all the same, I wanted the same journalism outlet.

I say if a person has a passion for something, a strong one, that filters everything else out of your mind, heart and lifts your soul, don’t lose faith in yourself now, go for it.

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