|Me (seated) shortly before deciding on writing career|
There isn’t one simple answer.
It was an early decision. My aunt tells me that she remembers me marching up to her and my grandmother and firmly announcing that I intended to be a writer – at four years old. This surprises me because I thought I’d decided much, much later in life - at seven. But, whichever, I was unwavering thereafter
But why did an infant want to be a writer? I used to think it was due simply to my family’s immense respect for books and writers. My mother almost revered books, and minded us scribbling on the wallpaper far less than drawing in a book. So, in our house, saying you wanted to be a writer was sure to win approval.
These days, I think Nature and Nurture are almost equal in influence, and my family were great story-tellers. Throughout my childhood I heard stories of my mother’s childhood: of how one hot-tempered auntie punched her fist through a glass pane, of an uncle was taken to hospital in a wheelbarrow, of the cat which could open the door when my mother couldn’t.
|My Grandmother Price|
Telling stories was what you did. Anything that happened, you polished into a story, with dramatic pauses, twists, punch-lines. Writing stories down was a natural progression.
And then, writing is acting for ugly people and action for coach-potatoes, which suits me perfectly. I can take on whatever appearance I fancy, in whatever century, change sex, change species, even become an extra-terrestrial. I can sail Viking ships, ride with reivers, dig a canal, emigrate to Mars – all without leaving my sofa and laptop. As the student said, “How cool is that?”
Lastly, writing never becomes boring. Difficult, frustrating, head-nipping – yes. Boring, no. I once knew a novice writer who wrote a play for a University production. It was well-received and the novice decided to write another for the following year. After several months, with head severely nipped, she cried out, “It doesn’t get easier, does it?”
She’d thought it would, you see. Everything else she’d tried had been easier the second time, and easier still the third. Obviously, writing would be the same. After all, she knew how to do it now, right?
|The Sterkarm Handshake|
Every new piece of writing brings new problems, and exposes new areas of ignorance to be researched. You never know where a story’s going to lead you. You’re always learning.
I had no idea, fifteen years ago, when I headed off for a walking holiday based in Durham, that, as a result, I was going to learn so much about the reivers and their way of life – to say nothing of modern weaponry. Nor, that fifteen years later, I’d still be learning more.