Since starting my Master’s in Creative Writing I’ve been having doubts about whether I should be writing at all. We spend a lot of time focusing on getting our work published, and what sort of writing is marketable, which is good, but part of me feels as though this is preventing me from writing what I want to write. It’s fine to focus on getting published after you’ve written a book, but before? Constantly thinking about whether or not people will like this scene, whether there will be a market for it, whether it will be commercial enough to make sales is terrifying, and shaping my ideas to that extent is preventing me from getting anything down on paper. Which is why I’m going to take a trip back through my “life as a writer” in hopes that I’ll be able to steal enough confidence from my younger self to write a story where the plot skips straight from a roller-coaster ride to everyone dying on a beach or something (this was something I actually wrote, 8 pages of characters almost dying because I was such a
depressing wonderful child).
I’m going to start by inserting the massive cliche ‘I have been writing for as long as I remember’. Because I have. As soon as I could write I was scribbling in notebooks and writing diary entries about how I was excluded from playing S-Club 7 because there weren’t enough parts. I was writing poems about my family members being the 90’s equivalent of “totes amazeballs” and also inventing stories about pretend children with rubbish families. One of the first stories I remember writing involved a really horrific holiday, complete with at least twenty unrelated near-death experiences. Nothing made sense and I’d skip from one place to another with no consideration that teleportation-devices were not used in modern-day Cleethorpes. But I didn’t care. My characters were going to survive plane crashes and killer donkey rides and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me.
Towards the end of primary school I wrote a short book combining Pokemon characters and a dramatic story line, written entirely in rhyming couplets. We had been asked to write a story about anything, and being the weird kid I was I decided I wanted to go all modern-Roald Dahl and do something similar to his Revolting Rhymes, including my own little drawings and everything. Everyone else just wrote a basic story, because that was the task, but I got so excited by the idea of creating something that I didn’t care if I was different to everyone else, as long as I got to have fun making my lines rhyme and having Pikachu causing as much havoc as he wanted. It wasn’t a brilliant story, by all means, but it impressed my teachers enough to be shown round the school, and, most importantly, I loved writing it.
When I was 11, I decided I wanted to live in the world of Harry Potter forever, which led to another piece of fiction that I wrote ‘Milly Jenkins and the Secret Zone’. It was basically a rip-off of Harry Potter with a female lead, and would never have been able to have been published, but that didn’t bother me. I got to spend time with my characters, I got away from real-life for a while, and I also got to be a bad-ass wizard running around a secret zone for a bit. Writing was always something fun that I could spend my time doing, without any prescribed rules to follow to achieve something. I was a very anxious child and writing took me away from that part of myself for a while.
Flash-forward to this blog, which was what provoked my decision to do creative writing at university, and developed my confidence in writing. Between the ages 15 and 18 I used to write on here a lot, and would write a lot of pretend advice articles from the point of view of fairy-tale characters. It was unusual and not commercial at all. I knew it would put-off more readers than it would get me but I never cared about that. I enjoyed writing them, I enjoyed creating different voices and I enjoyed creating fairy-tale-based humour which was probably never funny.
Even throughout my undergraduate degree I always wrote what I wanted to. I didn’t spend ages thinking over reasons why the lecturers would hate it, I just got on and did whatever I felt would be fun to do. I was disheartened by a few grades, yes, but I was always true to what I wanted to do.
Which brings me to why I write. Or why I used to write. Before this MA I wrote for fun. I wrote to create something new and exciting, to escape the boundaries of ordinary life. I wrote to get out of my own head and into someone else’s, to spend time in other worlds and situations. I wrote because I loved it, not because I had to.
People say that changing a hobby into a possible career changes your views on it. And I have to say I agree to a point. Since starting my MA I’ve been trying too hard to write something publishable. I’ve been trying too hard to write something that others will like, something that can fill a gap in Waterstones. But that shouldn’t be what I’m thinking. I should be writing something I enjoy writing, regardless of what other people think of it. Write something first; think of publication later. That way I can have as many roller-coaster deaths and talking-Pokemon as I like. I might even throw in Harry Potter’s doppelganger for good measure.
‘Barry Trotter and the roller-coaster of dying Pikachus’ – coming to a bookstore near you!