Before I was a writer I was a storyteller. With my stuffed toys I went to school in my bedroom. There were backstories for each bear and seal along with certificates for when they did well (stickers included!). I took them caving under my bed and sailing on the top bunk. We kept an eye out for pirates and walked the plank and made daring escapes from their hooks and hands. Then we had tea with empty plastic cups until I grew bored and left.
It wasn’t only stuffed toys. I told stories with lego, plastic dolls, wooden animals and magnetic sticks. Particularly memorable is the time I spent with the one and only barbie-style doll I was given. I built her a set of stocks and planned out exactly where in the volcano she would go. That, plus how many limbs she would have when she went there. Occasionally others would be involved but, if not, I was perfectly happy to wander in my own imagination.
For primary school, the only thing I remember about writing was the apparent importance of this ‘beginning’ thing – which I ignored gleefully. I told stories less and less to my toys, choosing to keep it in my head. Then I learnt about writing. A moment that sticks out is from year five when I found what I consider my first original character (OC); a boy named James Fear. I’ve still got his story somewhere but you’ll excuse me for not digging out something I wrote when I was ten. This was a new world! I didn’t have to keep my stories in my head, I could write them down!
Switch to highschool. Fiction suddenly wasn’t important. It was all ‘essays this’ and ‘essays that’ and ‘persuade me’! Fiction was ‘beginning, middle and end’ with a ‘prompt’, a ‘plan’ and ‘metaphors’, all foreign to my 12 year old brain who’d never listened to any of it. I still wrote but I wrote because I had to. I wrote in the ways I was taught and stories lost some of their magic. Whenever I was given a chance to write fiction I jumped on it, all the while listening to the quiet grumbles around me because fiction was hard.
Suffice to say, my writing went underground. Handwritten, mostly, in multiple notebooks discarded after only a few pages. Why, I couldn’t tell you, except that maybe I’d gotten bored. Then came the world of short stories. A few pages at most, now my notebooks bore fruit, hardcovers holding pencil marks and journeys. The last I wrote in them was of a bunny who knew it belonged to the Arctic but no-one believed her so she went on a journey to prove it. I never finished it.
Year ten. My first laptop. Mostly used for games and essays, some under the noses of my teachers (sorry maths teacher?), I started using it for stories at some unknown time in my final years of high school. My stories were over dramatic, depressing and self indulgent. I loved it. I was free to write whatever I wanted and no-one could stop me!
This became most evident 15th April 2017 when I opened a document and wrote The dark used to be something that everyone was afraid of. It was intended solely as a worldbuilding exercise but turned into something more when I found more questions I didn’t have the answer to. Why was the dark so scary? What kind of people lived underground, left others to die in above? Months later, I still didn’t know but I had reached 85,000 words, having somehow written the first draft of a novel.
It then sat in a folder for two years before realising I could/should edit it. Then followed a long and painful process of another year in which: the main character changed, I rewrote the entire thing, and I developed a frustration with the lack of editing resources in my life. But I’d done something. I’d written a full length novel (draft) and read through it! And rewrote it! And didn’t hate it!
But I didn’t call myself a writer until 2020. I was a writer. I just didn’t call myself one. What changed? Well, I wrote more. I wrote the first draft of a trilogy during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2019 and completed a million word year by the end of Nano 2020. But more than that, I remembered why I write. I write because it’s fun. I write because there’s a certain freedom I can’t find anywhere else.
I’m near certain there’re writers out there like me, forgetting why they loved writing in the first place. Where words are forced and dull, empty of magic. And I wish there was something I could say, something helpful or smart to lead you back to your stories. In the end though?
I’m a writer just like you. So all I’ll say is keep telling stories; to yourself, to your toys, your wall, anything that will listen. Then one day you’ll write it down.