My plan for this evening (as my husband is out) was to catch up on various posts I have wanted to write for a while. However, Harry has taken an age to get to sleep (tip: no bananas before bed, something I have known for a while, but as it is the only thing he has eaten all day I cannot complain) and in this time I let my mind wander into the lands of nostalgia.
It was my resolution this year to get serious about writing again – properly serious. Write more. Get myself out there. Grow my confidence. Now, Nanowrimo is finally upon us again, and this year I am making an effort to get more involved with other writers. And it makes me doubt myself. From reading other blogs I have seen such amazing talent and dedication and I think ‘I don’t have that’. But at the same time I think ‘Yes, I do – I just need to prove it.’ Mainly to myself, then to others.
During the past eight years I have been strolling through a maze. I have been letting each path take me wherever it leads and I haven’t been hurrying along or searching for the centre of the maze. I have just been getting lost. Turning back. Starting again. Sometimes going the long way round. Each time thinking I am heading in the right direction. But now, I am back to the beginning and I need to get to the centre of that blasted maze. I have to.
I have always wanted to write. Before I could even write I was making books from folded over bits of paper tied up with string. Then, when I was asked the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, it was always ‘an author-illustrator’. Sure, I gave the usual 8-year-old girl answers of ‘hairdresser’ and ‘nurse’ on occasion, but I always added ‘and an author-illustrator’. And as I grew, it was always tagged on the end to whatever I wanted to be an the time (and there were a lot of things – teacher, police officer, social worker, diplomat, aid worker…), although at some point I lost the ‘illustrator’ bit.
When I was in primary school we had to write poems about our hands. I had to read mine out in assembly. I still remember part of it:
My hands have patterns
like long long ropes
My hands are smooth
as smooth as soap
My hands are [I forget this part]
My hands are so useful to me
Later in primary school (I think in Year 4), I was part of a group of outstanding students who had special classes because they felt we were getting held back. We all co-wrote and acted in a play to the parents and the rest of the school. It was about a family who got lost in the fog when out on a walk in the country and were guided to safety by a ghost dog.
One of my strongest positive memories about being a writer is from when I was in Year 6 (I think) and I had this teacher – Miss Sheridan/Mrs Thackerway – who I still remember as one of my favourite teachers ever (for the sake I fairness I will note that my other favourite teacher was Mrs Baggott, who was my Year 8 teacher). Our primary and middle schools always produced tea towels for each class where each student had to draw a picture of themselves, and that year Miss Sheridan asked if I could draw her picture for the tea towel. She also gave us this fantastic project where we had to write and illustrate a book in pairs. Unfortunately, I cannot remember any of the story (I have an inkling of an island and something reminiscent of the Famous Five, which would make sense as I was working with my friend, Sam, and we both loved the Famous Five), although I remember that Miss Sheridan always picked up on Sam spelling ‘between’ as ‘betwen’ and me right ‘cannot’ as two separate words. Later, I think it may have been in Year 8, we were given a project about the Kobe earthquake and I remember making a fantastic little book which was the journal of a young girl (I think I must have been going through an Ann Frank phase). When I go home at Christmas I really must see if I still have any of these things. I still have a few boxes to sort through and I know my Dad is dying to get rid of them!
I think things started to change a lot when I was at High School – as they do for most people, really. I got into online journalling and I wrote a lot of poetry and so-called songs. I think my proudest achievement was the poem I wrote for my Mum for Mother’s Day when I was 16 (and I remember I was 16 because for my 16th Birthday she gave me a little guardian angel to take with me on my travels – I was going on a month-long trip to Peru that Summer). I called it ‘My Guardian Angel’ and, like ‘My Hands’, most of it has always stuck with me (my Mum also has it framed!):
Wherever in the world I am
You will be there with me
Come rain or hail
Sleet or snow
Silent winds that softly blow
As time goes by
My guardian angel will always fly
I remember hours spent scribbling away in black hardback notebooks from Woolworths and if anyone asked what I was doing I would say ‘stuff’, so much so that my writing has forever been nicknamed ‘stuff’. If I wasn’t doing that I was sitting at my Grandpa’s old word processor (when we upgraded to a computer with internet and everything, I persuaded my parents to let me have it in my bedroom rather than chuck it away), staring out of my attic window and I truly recall the first true sparks of inspiration and aspiration that I had for writing novels. Not that I stopped writing my childish poetry just yet. I know for sure that I am not a poet.
However, even with university and the rest of my life looming in the near-distance, I still did not think of writing as a career. I suppose it must have crossed my mind, but I never took it seriously. I just did not have the confidence. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was good enough. My friends and family always complicated my writing. I recall one teacher telling my parents on parent’s evening that I was ‘a star’ and my essays ‘always read like a story’. Not that I ever had bad parent’s evenings, but that was definitely my best one!
After school. I always wanted to take a GAP year. Partly because I wanted to see the world, partly because I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I learnt Spanish, I worked at a children’s home helping the kids with their homework, I travelled and learnt all sorts of life lessons. When I got home I wanted to work. More specifically, I wanted to work in hotels. A week after getting home I had my first shift as a hotel receptionist at the worst hotel you can imagine. It was also the most boring job in the world and I could probably still tell you the various TV programmes I watch from 8.30am to 8.30pm four days a week. 6 days a week when November hit and suddenly the other receptionist quit. But, I was saved by the discovery of Nanowrimo and in 30 days I wrote 50,000 words of a story called ‘Where the Light Breaks. Seven years on, I am going to write that story again. Since I made that resolution – thanks to a very inspirational penpal – I have been researching and planning and my original idea has grown in such a way that I would never have believed seven years ago (I still don’t believe it now).
I now know for sure where I want my life to head. I just need to find the right path.