'I found that having your own voice was perfect' - A blog from Sarah, a Square Peg Stories participant

As I start to write this blog post I try to think about what people would want to read about the Square Peg Stories Project. And to be honest my only reaction is that I have one thing to say about it and that’s that it has changed my life. Why? Because it made me see myself differently. It made me realise that I could achieve my dreams. I found a community within Square Pegs that made me smile and made me want to leave the house, which as anyone who knows me could tell you, is not easy for me to do. 

Starting Something New never comes easily to me: the new environments, the new people, the new routine that has to be established. It all makes me anxious and scared. In years past it has stopped me from going out of the house for over a year. But even when you try not to do anything new, you’re inevitably faced with something. So, when that scary New Situation came into my life, I would go through the following: I would start by discussing the endless possibilities of what could happen if that new thing came into my life and what the possible consequences are to each of those possibilities. Imagine just for one moment, if you were the person I chose to talk to about the possibilities of going outside. For one thing I would take hours possibly the whole day to tell you everything that could happen. Oh, and secondly I am more than likely going to end up having a panic attack, so good luck with dealing with that. Meanwhile I am still in my head going through all the possibilities not listening to you. I would forget to breathe, and you would tell me to breathe, but I am not listening to you. I will end up thinking I am having a heart attack. The result of this has been that I avoid new things and stick to my routine. But with Square Peg Stories I did Something New.

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It all started with a story that I wrote about a dog and an email about an opportunity for autistic adults to take part in creative writing workshop with the result of getting published. I decided to apply for it as I love writing and I had just written this story that I wanted to share with the world. I didn’t ever think I would actually get in to the Square Peg Project, so I never actually worried about it.

But I did. On the day that I got accepted I told my mum as we were on our way to the hospital. She was very proud. I started my usual nervous tendencies and discussed all the possible outcome that could happen. I had made the decision not to go for this opportunity, as I was so worried that I would ruin their workshop. My decision happened pretty quickly after receiving the email. My biggest worry was people would read my work, and the consequence was people would not understand me, and think I am stupid or silly. I also worried I would get told off from by my father, who doesn’t support my writing.

But at the hospital we were told the news that Mum had cancer. My decision was reversed: I was going to do the workshops because it was going to make Mum so proud, and she said it would help her. The panic set in for the month leading up to that first day, and my mum and aunt helped me through.

My first day on Square Pegs again consisted of experiencing my nervous tendencies on the train and the walk to the workshops. I went in and was greeted by smiling faces and the journey began. I sat next to new people and I didn’t run away. I just sat and listened to the inspirational people giving a workshop on writing. My brain instead took over with my ideas. I started my lists in my head about all the stories that I wanted to write when I get home. Each workshop more lists were created, more stories were written. I came across a problem: I had a deadline and I couldn’t find one of my stories that I wanted to give to people to read, let alone judge in some way. I knew that one of these inspirational workshop facilitators was going read my work and give me feedback and so I knew that it had to be the right story.

After panicking for a week I decided that I had to choose the story that came from my favourite workshop. In one of the workshops we had done this exercise where we wrote from the point of view of an object. I loved thinking about how this object would perceive the world. I remember that all the way home I looked at everything, from the road, the wheels, the animals that I saw and eventually a tree. So the story that I chose was about a tree I saw in the park every time was on my journey to Mainspring’s workshop. With the help of the other workshops I was able to input all the facilitators’ collective wisdom into this story. It went from one type of story to another and eventually it ended up to where it is today.

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Throughout all the workshops and the mentoring that I had, I was able to see my story come to life and I was able to feel slightly more comfortable with the fact that someone was reading my work. I found that my mentor never judged me and it made me realise that mostly I was judging myself, and that this had led me to believe that others would think the same as me. As I saw they didn’t I began to question my own thoughts about my writing. It made me think more constructively about myself and my writing. I found a writing buddy in this team of creative geniuses and he helped me see my story in a different way and I found that having your own voice was perfect.

 The participants hard at work in a workshop

The participants hard at work in a workshop

Every part of this journey has been new. I have found some of it painfully difficult but I wouldn’t change any of it because I made a friend, I was happy to have someone read my writing and I felt like I made my mum proud as I let now let her read all my stories.