Saturday, 24 May 2014

Disaster strikes on the road to gaining writing credits

The magazine in which I have an article, and the paper in which I dream of having an article.

The writing life had been rocky lately. As all part-time writers know, cramming your hopes and ambitions into the hours outside work produces a poignant mix of exhaustion, focused creativity, frustration and longing. I had been concentrating on trying to get some writing credits to ‘sex up’ the dossier of my query letter. A campaign of sending off short stories, poems and pitches for articles had come to a disheartening nothing, and the temptation to give up, as I have always done, crept up and threatened to pounce. An article I had published in a local counselling magazine was something to cling to, but it wasn’t enough on its own.

Then came a reply from a charity, OCD UK. I had sent an article about my experience, five years ago, when my 13-year-old son developed OCD. It was meant to give advice and hope to parents searching the web in desperation, as I had during a very dark time. The stories I found were heart-rending and depressing, whereas my son had eventually come through and now at 18 sees OCD as being in his past. I don’t deny that the article was also meant to get me a proper writing credit to help reboot my dream of a writing future.

The charity wanted to publish it, both online and in print. Hope blazed into life. I just had to check the terms of my son’s permission. I knew he would not allow a photograph, which the charity had asked about, and I thought he might want to edit some of the detail, but I assumed he would be positive about a sensitively written article that expresses great pride in his achievement in overcoming this dreadful mental illness.

He refused permission. Even though I didn’t use his name; even if I didn’t use my name; even if he had the right to edit; he would not allow it. Nor would he listen to my feelings on the matter; his own upset at the issues I had stirred up outweighing anything I might have to say. I had to contact the charity again and withdraw the article I had been so delighted to have accepted.

There was nothing I could do. My son’s privacy, and family harmony, had to come first. Over the next few days of sleepless disappointment and stunned resentment, I learned two things. One: always check you have permission before pitching. Two: if writing means as much me as these overblown emotions suggest, shouldn’t this be better reflected in my life? I have decided it should. There has been a huge fundamental shift in my thinking, and things are going to be different.

As for my son, he has A levels. He needs my support. I love him. He may, in some strange way, have done me a favour.