It was the first day of term this week; at least it was for the delightful group of women who gathered on Wednesday morning for the opening session of my 10-week writing course here in Mid Devon. They had all attended at least one introductory workshop in the summer, so had some idea of what to expect, at least in terms of approach, although they don't know, until each session starts, quite what they will be writing. So, anticipation is always tinged with a little apprehension. And, given that this is the first extended course that I have led, I too was balancing these twin feelings.
But, as the morning unfolds, pens begin to speed across the page, pages are filled and writing shared, and we begin to sense that growing satisfaction of a passion shared. I am already feeling immensely proud of them for their energy and commitment and, if this first session is anything to go by, we have a term of inspirational writing ahead.
Although I have already mapped out each session plan, I'm conscious that every member of the group will have their own writing aspirations, so there is some flexibility in the structure. And it turns out that what several members would welcome is - a session on blogging.
Well, how could I presume to guide people through the whys and wherefores of blogging, when my own blog had lain fallow for such extended periods of time? It was a silent prod; each week I send a writing prompt to my students, those in the group and those whom I mentor individually, via Skype. Now, here, in the room where we gather each week, I was receiving a writing prompt for myself.
So that's it. Must try harder. Must return to regular blogging and responding to thoughtful comments and and to blog visiting, because that it what a polite, conscientious blogger does. Must remember why I started writing this blog almost seven years ago and consider what, if anything, had changed in that time. Quite a lot, as it happens, but not, I think, the desire to communicate. It's just that life, including the challenging and potentially scary stuff, has a habit of getting in the way at times . . . which is what I tell myself until I remember that habits are simply learned behaviour and can therefore be changed.
A few years ago, when I was working on one of my last professional contracts, before I threw in the towel to concentrate on other things (ie writing for myself rather than for other people), I was attending an education awards evening at the Science Museum and chatting to a colleague. He had commissioned work from me when he had been a vice-principal of one of London's leading further education colleges and subseqently principal at two others. Somehow the phrase 'a passion for education' or maybe it was 'a passion for learning' came into the conversation and it turned out to be a thorny subject for him. 'I can't bear that phrase,' he said. It was, in fact, the word 'passion' to which he objected. I can't remember why, although I'm sure - given his impressive intellect - that he had a sound reason for this but I do remember feeling rather puzzled and a little sad about it at the time.
I don't think there is anything wrong in having a passion for something, well, certainly not something as worthwhile as learning. Because, if you do have a specific passion, it frequently goes hand in hand with wanting to share that passion and this is how I feel about writing. It's what I do and what I love and although writing this blog is just one of the outlets I have for that passion, it has always had a particular significance for me as it has enabled me to write anything I wish about anything I wish, from the personal to the political, from the seemingly inconsequential to the rather bigger stuff.
Meanwhile, I had one of those demi-milestone birthdays last weekend and, while I don't exactly leap up and down with unalloyed joy as yet another year is added to the tally, I do tend to take stock on my birthday. And, if appropriate, I make a quiet resolution, and sometimes several, for the coming year. As it happens, my birthday also coincides with having undergone that first, surgical step to vanquishing breast cancer (AKA on this blog as the Massive Inconvenience) two years ago.
As far as I know - because I haven't yet had my second annual check-up as the hospital is behind with appointments again - I remain happily cancer-free, fit and well, which pushes concerns, such as a much diminished income in my third age, into the shade. I learned a good deal on my journey to recovery and one of the things I have learned and now understand more fully, having always just nodded in its direction, is the importance of doing what you love and loving what you do. So I had better get on with it, the writing that is, and the blogging and, above all, encouraging others to write.
Come on in, the water is lovely.