I’ve always wanted to be a writer. There I said it, cliché I know. But it’s true. There are not many things I can remember from my childhood but writing was one thing I certainly can.
How It All Started
I was eight years old, and my class in school were asked to write a short story on our studies of India. It was a great subject and we all enjoyed it very much. We were tasked with placing ourselves within the world of India, in whatever time zone we felt comfortable with. We were asked to explore India from what we had leant, and had to describe what we did in the story and what we got up to.
But to top it off, we were asked to write around four pages. Everybody groaned. Four pages, in a schoolwork book? Why that was ludicrous, almost tome worthy. We were only eight years old, for goodness sake. How were we to do that?
It was my time to shine. Yeah sure, four pages in a schoolwork book did at the time seem like a lot of work, but in hindsight, I think I would have filled those four pages with what I’ve written so far here. I had in fact filled up fifteen pages. Yup, fifteen, I remember it well, as the teacher was gobsmacked when I told her.
So what had I concocted in my head to warrant fifteen pages about a fictitious autobiographical adventure through an improvised time zone in India, a place none of us students had ever been to before? Well first it was worth noting what my peers had written about. I don’t mean to brag, but their stories included what felt like the extent of how hot the sun may have been on their skin, or how exciting it was that they had seen the markets and so forth.
To everybody’s shock, I had presented a story even I can hardly believe I managed. I had placed myself in ancient India, overlooking the construction of the Taj Mahal. I had found myself a genie lamp, and wished to see the palace built instantly, but at a cost, for once I had made my wish, a winged monster erupted from the ground and took a bite out of the palace’s dome, only to breathe fire on the city around it. I had to escape with a terrified Indian family, who allowed me to take refuge in their home, only for the wife and children of the husband to be gobbled up, leaving me to convince the poor husband not to take his own life out of sadness.
As you can understand my class were pretty stunned by the nonsense I managed to procure from my eight year old head. But none the less, I had a cracking time writing it.
The Story That Sparked It
I was fourteen years old, and I had been living in Wales for four years. My bedroom was not to my taste: my walls were lavender, and I had delicate feminine netted curtains. We knew we wouldn’t be in the house long, so we never had it redecorated to my absolute misery.
As a kid I was pretty inactive when it came to sports or exercise or friends or the outside world, you get the picture, and so I was destined for my lovely lavender bedroom, with a computer that took almost half an hour to turn on. I really only had one outlet, so reading was my best friend.
Don’t get me wrong, I read yes, but I was never the fastest reader, so when I read the novel Eragon by Christopher Paolini, you can imagine that thing probably took me a good couple of months to get through, or maybe it was three months, let’s go with that.
But I suppose my slowness when it came to reading was a blessing in disguise. I had inevitably allowed myself three months with these fictional characters, learning their world, personalities and views of each other. Yes I thought I knew them, these fictional characters.
Not only that but I had a map to guide me as I followed Eragon and his companions across the grand world of Alegasia, imagining with the descriptions of what these waypoints would look like.
But the biggest part of this experience was not how much I enjoyed the novel, but more so the fact that Christopher Paolini was still in high school when he wrote it!
It was one of the biggest wake up calls of my life. I experienced an emotion that drilled in so prominently I remember where I was sat and how I got up, still with the book in my hand once I had finished the thing. If he can do it, then I’m sure I can! I thought, jolting up from my bed in the corner of my delightful lavender bedroom. That was it; I wanted to be a writer too.
I Jumped Straight In
I remember it well. I had run to my mother’s soon to be ex-partner and begged him to take me to the local stationary store. (I had to wait for my mum instead.) Once there I loaded up on what I assumed to be the writer’s arsenal: pens, pencils, sketchbooks, plastic folders, notebooks ect, and also a brand new swivel chair, which I had managed to afford by being the nicest grandson to my grandfather, who both my brother and I always called Sarge, on account of him being a sergeant in the police force back in his day, before he eventually retired and took up writing as a hobby, though sadly never had anything published.
Once back home I began immediately on what I thought would be the next best seller in the YA fantasy genre. In order to meet my grand expectation of becoming a teen author sensation, I had approximately six years to do it before I hit twenty.
It seems almost by chance I placed the date at the top of the first page of my first “novel”. It’s hard to believe it’s been over twelve years since I started writing the thing.
So here it was, the first “novel” I ever wrote: Galdore and The Rapid Wanderer. Seriously I thought I’d struck writer’s magnificence when I came up with this title. The story revolved around Galdore, a young man who on his birthday received a bow and arrow from his father, the mayor of…whatever nonsensically named town the cast of characters lived in.
Admittedly the story was just a cheap cheese ball of the novel Eragon, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was it was the start of a career I was so happy to be embarking on. And even though the opening line of this teenage drivel I had written was (is) still enough to make my skin crawl, it was a prominent step in the right direction.
The opening line: “The morning star rose over the delicate terrain and gently shone its welcoming rays over the hills and mountains of the land.” Yeah, you can laugh now. I never managed to finish Galdore and The Rapid Wanderer, but nonetheless, I was still able to churn out 250 pages of the thing before I ran into writer’s block and stuffed the thing away.
I even put my hand to cover design, believing in my bones that my drawing of my protagonist Galdore was worthy to grace the shelves of Waterstones. Again, I give you permission to laugh, but I was only fourteen after all. Oh dear, just look at his arm, and his neck, and, well, everything!
But it never stopped me.
The Reasons I Write
As my writing skills progressed, there were various aspects of it I discovered. Writing was no longer just about having fun and getting lost in one’s own thoughts, it’s certainly a big part of it but mainly it was an opportunity to both entertain and inform.
Writing had become both a form of escapism and a chance to view our own world in an alternative context.
I fell in love with this idea. Suddenly it wasn’t just about dragons and explosions and sword fights…it was about characters, friendships, concerns, plights and the desires we as real-life-characters can relate to.
As a writer I’ve come across many conflictions about the craft, many of which are “You’re wasting your time living in a dream land!” or “No matter how hard you try, fantasy and science fiction will never be art worthy.”
Both arguments are true, but only if you believe in them. I personally think that anything created is art in its own right. At the end of the day, my philosophy is: Do what you love, as long as you deliver no harm doing it.
Thanks for reading.