Hello to all fellow writers amongst my audience! I don’t network with other writers nearly as much as I should, so I’ve never quite had an answer to this question; have you always known that you wanted to be a writer, or did it take time? Do you still have examples of your childhood attempts at creative writing, or have you burned them all in shame?
For me, the answers are sort of complicated.
I always knew that I wanted to become a writer in a sort of nebulous way. I have had this notion in my head ever since the age I learned to read. But this didn’t arrive out of some innate gift for writing (I had been a pretty lousy writer until a few years ago when I started purposely putting effort into improving my skills, and even now I don’t really rate myself with much confidence). It instead came from my tendency to daydream, and the whole writing part was sort of secondary, serving as a way to bring my daydreams into the world in a way that felt concrete.
I was a visibly neurodivergent child in the wild west of the 2000s’ and 2010s’. That, unfortunately, was met with bullying and friendlessness. A lot of my childhood was spent drawing, writing, and daydreaming because the reality of my life was a little too painful to bear. For many years I regarded myself with shame and self-deprecation, blaming myself for the bullying, but I think I see my childhood self through kinder eyes now. I was a good kid, and often thoughtful and creative beyond my years; I tried my best with what I had and sowed the seeds of a life for myself. I have no real reason to be ashamed.
The first ‘proper’ attempt of writing that I actually remember came when I was about seven or eight. We’d just started learning about other countries and cultures in primary school geography class, and it made my imagination run wild.
I wrote a series of stories about three girls living in a rural Indian village, playing in the forest and running away from a talking tiger that was trying to eat them. They started off pretty grounded, including factual details that I had learned in class, but they soon went off the rails as I began to write them at break and lunchtimes.
One involved the girls finding a door that opened up to a parallel universe of talking horses that just happened to have the same names and appearances as my toy ones (less ‘My Little Pony’ and more of those cheap, hollow plastic horses with a thin layer of flocking on them to make them fuzzy). Another came after learning about Greek mythology in class, involving a nonsensical plot where the girls would board a “time travel plane” to Ancient Greece for a holiday. Only one of these stories still survives in the form of a tatty word document print-out in the back of my filing cabinet (one of the less bizarre ones), and I have no intentions of ever sharing it.
Once, my teacher brought a video camera into class, and we were all filmed reading our little stories out loud. Though the tape is probably long gone, I still lowkey fear it resurfacing. It would be a bit too embarrassing for me to bear.
A bit later on, I sort of changed my aspiration from writer to filmmaker. This came after I attended a summer activity group when I was eleven, and then a weekend filmmaking club when I was thirteen. I was enchanted by scripts and cameras, and especially obsessed with the editing process; a skill that allowed me to indulge my lifelong love of sitting in a dark room on a computer not talking to anyone. My love of writing morphed and broadened into a love of storytelling in all of its forms, and I envisioned a future as a filmmaker. This involved a brief yet deeply embarrassing foray into trying to become a YouTuber, though I reckon many people my age also had this same embarrassing dream.
Having temporarily abandoned prose, my next attempt at writing was in the form of a rather wonky series of scripts, though I don’t remember if I ever dreamed of producing them. They were formatted in a sort of awkward way halfway between plays and audio dramas (not that I was yet familiar with the nuances of either) and told charmingly terrible science fiction stories about teens who fought alien monsters in their back garden. They were inspired both by my growing obsession with Doctor Who, and various things that I learned about in school.
Amongst my rogues' gallery of poorly-conceived villains was the Ancient Egyptian god Sobek (learned about in history class, and then in the TV show Horrible Histories), the titular Triffids from ‘The Day of the Trifffds’ (that I had read as part of a project in my English class), and my own original creation; a strange race of cybernetic moon wasps who could inexplicably merge together to form a humanoid robot.
As the bullying progressed in severity, I retreated deeper into my creative pursuits. The strange scripts sort of morphed into a worldbuilding project, and I devised a whole fictional universe of intensely detailed yet contradictory lore. I eventually lost the motivation to write in any great quantity, and the fictional world drifted into daydreams.
A lot of the worldbuilding is very amateurish, and very obviously written by a thirteen-year-old. I recently recovered a whole bunch of it from an old laptop hard drive, and I can see crumbs of painfully-underutilised potential. I’m quite fond of it despite its flaws, and I have toyed with cannibalising the project for ideas, though that currently remains on the back-burner. Needless to say, this is another childhood writing project I would not share wholesale with the world.
A lot of my dreams died when I was fourteen. The school bullying got just a little bit too much to bear, and my mental health got so poor that I was pulled out of school to preserve what little sanity I had left. I was quote-unquote “homeschooled” for the next two years, though I was so miserable that a lot of it just didn’t take.
I had a sort of crisis when I was sixteen. I realised that my life had veered horrifically off-course, and if I didn’t do something to correct it immediately, I would amount to nothing. I applied to college, briefly exploring the traditional route of GCSEs before giving in and joining a creative media course to indulge my love of filmmaking. I started out on a primitive level one course but was quickly boosted up to level two when my instructors realised that my problem was depression, not lack of intelligence. This course not only fed my passions but instilled in me a brand new sense of purpose. When I realised that this course could give me the qualifications I needed to go to university, my hopes soared and I worked as hard as I possibly could. I was on my media course for three years and got a distinction every year.
During the course, I began to drift somewhat from film as a passion. While the film and TV production industries would be interesting for me to work in (an avenue that I would like to keep at least partly open to me), I re-discovered my love of writing prose. My course gave me very little opportunity to do this, so I turned to it as a hobby, discovering Nanowrimo and attempting to write both novels and short stories.
When the time came for me to start investigating university courses, I found myself with a choice to make. After finding out that most joint film and creative writing courses would not be a good fit for me, I realised that it would be one or the other. I could stay on my predictable film studies track, or make the leap of faith into creative writing.
I chose the leap of faith. It’s working out for me quite nicely so far, though I may not be so positive about it when the time comes to find myself a job. Though I am very passionate about my studies, I may very well ultimately end up as the smartest burger flipper in the fast-food joint.
I have grown as a writer so much since I started university, and this blog is evidence of my progress. I am glad to have grown from a daydreamer into a writer, and I hope that I can produce many more creative works in future.