Someone asked me the other day, after reading Deafinitely Girly, if deafness was an all-consuming part of my life because I wrote about it every day. I thought for a while and realised that the only answer is ‘no, it isn’t.’ It’s my specialist subject.
Jeremy Clarkson’s specialist subject is cars and moaning, AA Gil knows considerable amounts about criticizing restaurants, but that doesn’t mean to say that every morning while brushing their teeth, that’s all those two ever think about.
When I was at university and struggling to get the plot right for my novella, my lecturer gave me some excellent advice, ‘Write about what you know, write from the heart,’ she encouraged, wafting around the lecture theatre, which made lip reading quite difficult as she ducked and dived and I tried to follow her.
Being deaf is something that I know quite well and it’s also entwined within my heart. In order to accept being deaf all those years ago, I had to love it, get to know it, make it work for me – just as Jeremy Clarkson loves cars, gets to know them and makes the whole thing work for him.
So, while I may write about being deaf day in, day out, I don’t think about being deaf day in, day out. While I might moan about services available that perhaps could be fixed far more easily than I let on, I don’t think about moaning all the time.
Which reminds me, no moaning this morning, for last night I went to see The Year Of Magical Thinking at The National Theatre, with subtitles! And, it was amazing! The play is a monologue and Vanessa Redgrave played Joan Didion, a woman whose husband dropped dead over dinner one night. Her presence was such that I could see her in my mind even when I was reading the subtitles, not looking at the stage.
Joan Didion’s specialist subject is, by no choice of her own, grief – she lost her husband and her daughter in the same year – she thought magical thinking would bring the former back to her, she promised the latter that everything would be okay. Perhaps it was cathartic to let it all out, perhaps that’s why I got to relive it last night, portrayed through Vanessa Redgrave.
While what I write about is in no way comparable to Joan Didion, I think it is therapeutic to let your specialist subject out, to release it so you can get on with other stuff. Which is why I’m writing and I hope you’re reading.