I’ve loved writing ever since I was really little. My favourite times at school were when we were told to write a poem about x or a story about y. It felt wonderful when my friends would ask me to read my stories to them, or the teacher would give me a merit and a sticker and say “Great work!” in response to my silly poem about teeth brushing, or autumn, or whatever the topic of the day was.
I’d like to think that my writing has continued to improve since those days.
I remember sometimes I would trawl through the thesaurus to find the perfect word to really make my story stand out. Sometimes it backfired. On one particular occasion I decided I needed to vividly describe the colours of the house in my story and so set about finding interesting colour names and applying them even if I didn’t know what they meant. Khaki windowsills, anyone? Well I suppose it could’ve been worse.
I remember one time I wrote a poem about teeth-brushing. The main character of the poem, if I recall correctly, was playing around whilst brushing their teeth, imagining for example that the toothbrush was a spaceship flying between white asteroids of teeth. Each stanza would end with the mother telling the person not to mess around, and the end of the poem revealed that the tooth-brusher was not, as expected, a child, but rather was middle-aged. My teacher dubbed it “ironic” and I was thrilled to have such a grown-up word applied to my writing, even if I wasn’t sure what “ironic” was.
Short stories were another fond favourite of mine. The main characters tended to be children, as I was too, and I liked to write things with magic, mystery and a touch of (childish) horror. I remember one in which I ran out of time to finish the “quest” the main character was on, because I got sidetracked by making him have a long conversation with a talking owl he came across. In another a girl was trying to escape a dungeon into which she’d somehow fallen, and the story ends with her being grabbed and pulled back down just as she’s almost got out. Another committed the most horrible cliché of having the character wake up and realise it was all a bad dream. I seem to recall that the real ending was that she woke up from having woken up and realised it hadn’t been a dream at all. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse… I was only ten years old, though, so I think I can perhaps forgive myself.
My passion for writing continued beyond primary school. English continued to be my favourite class, and I loved having the opportunity to write. When we wrote poems the teacher would often ask for people to volunteer to read theirs out, and I would read out mine. Or more truthfully I would get one of my friends to read mine out, as I often felt too shy and embarrassed to do so.
My stories continued to include adventure, magic and fantasy, and got darker. I wrote stories that featured abuse, self-harm, time-travel, bullying, witches, non-conventional relationships, betrayal… I suffered from depression and saw therapists on and off throughout this period, and my writing reflected that. My poetry became dark, emotional and powerful. I remember one time when I read my poem out to the class and a stunned silence followed. When my teacher spoke all he said was “wow”. I realised later that the poem hadn’t even properly followed the brief (there was an extra line), but nobody had noticed the structure, swept up as they were in the message of the poem.
When time came to choose a university I knew I wanted to study creative writing. Nothing else made sense to me. All I wanted to do was write.
With one thing and another I didn’t even finish the first year of my university course. I moved to Finland, and with one thing and another my writing fell by the wayside. There are days when I miss it. I often feel like I don’t have the time to write, but I know that’s a load of rubbish. I can make the time. I should make the time.
NaNoWriMo has been a great way to force myself to write, when I’ve participated in it the last couple of years. Last year was a particularly good one for me as I exceeded the word goal, leaving me with about 75% done with a novel that had been waiting to be written since I was doing A levels. That’s about four or five years it was waiting to be written. Now, eleven months later it hasn’t moved much beyond 75%, but my goal is to get it finished by the end of the year. I will make myself do it.
The key, I think, is to make myself write. So that’s what I’ll do. And that’s why I’m blogging. Writing this blog may not help me get closer to finishing the book, but it will help me get back in the writing habit.