“It didn’t occur to me that my books would be widely read at all, and that enabled me to write anything I wanted to. And even once I realized that they were being read, I still wrote as if I were writing in secret. That’s how one has to write anyway — in secret.”
I have written since childhood, mostly Enid Blyton knock-offs at first in old exercise books, then teenage romances and fantasy stories. Only ever bits and pieces. I even tried to write a panto, after I was in one and thought the dialogue was terrible, even for a panto. I got a sparkly notebook and wrote down all my ideas in it, from interesting names, to little story ideas, to conversations. It was soon filled up and I got another one, also sparkly.
If ever I didn’t have the notebook on me I grabbed receipts, bus tickets, paper bags, pages from magazines, anything at all to get my thought locked onto paper. This has stayed with me all my life and has meant clearing out takes much longer – I have to check each tiny or scruffy piece of paper to see if it has writing on it before I throw it out.
I have kept a diary almost all my life. I definitely wrote in it more when I was a teenager. I would pour my heart out most nights. These days I’m lucky if I’m awake long enough at bedtime to summarise the day. But I love having my old diaries around me. Memories written down, ready to be retrieved when needed.
I finished school, went to university, lived abroad (in Japan), travelled around the world, moved home penniless, then moved to London. Throughout that time I always wrote. More bits and pieces, mostly, and I also found opportunities to write for work. Worksheets, emails, presentations, information packs, even a radio ad.
Until one day I was seized with an idea that wouldn’t let go. That sounds so cliche, but it’s true. I was at work, flicking through some books to get ideas for a lesson plan. I saw a picture that stuck in my head. It developed and grew until I HAD to grab a pen and start writing. Eventually I wrote an entire draft. Later I typed it up and attempted to edit it. It’s still sitting on my hard drive, probably never to see the light of day. (Editing is hard!)
I was so amazed with myself for writing an entire draft that I tried it again. I wrote one of the stories that had been tumbling around my brain since I was about 15. I used to write bits of this story when I was bored in school, in the backs of notebooks. It is about a rebel and a prince. During long, boring days of signing visitors in and out of the building I worked at, I wrote every spare moment, until it was done and typed up.
I haven’t done anything with it since. And I haven’t written any new stories, though I have written bits and pieces, including something about a band and some picture book ideas. Having two small children, I feel my brain is in bits and pieces. It’s all I can manage for now. Maybe later I’ll have the time and the mental strength to return to them.
For 7 years now I have been blogging, in fits and starts. I’m on my fourth try. I hope this one sticks! I have had a dance history blog, a parenting blog, one about living on a housebus, and now this one. What’s different this time is I’m not forcing it. I’m not trying to bend myself to any theme or topic or niche. If I feel like writing about something, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s very liberating. I think in the past I worried that no-one would want to read something by me unless it was useful in some way. Now I consider my blog to be personal writing, so it’s less important to me if anyone reads it or not.
I’m not me if I’m not writing. That’s why I want to take the leap now and earn a living from it. I have done some unpaid work so far. Writing for my local Playcentre and writing some reviews. I am putting feelers out for more work. Hopefully paid work is just around the corner. I’ll keep you posted.