I sat, in the traditional manner that gravity dictates – legs bent below and arse firm and watertight against seat – watching my knees peeking out from jeans that are old enough to be taking their GCSE’s. Below, the sea crashed against the pier and a lone man scanned the beach with his metal-detector looking for treasure, or maybe his car keys, or a wedding ring thrown in a rage, I have no idea. I thought about how I’d like a story-detector. A kind of apparatus that, at first glance, would have something of the sex toy about it, but actually buzzed around the head and plucked out long forgotten images and ideas with which to start penning something magnficent.
I’ve been writing all my life. I don’t remember my first story, but I can go back as far as being eight or nine years old and writing ten pages (with illustrations) about a fox that tries to eat something out of the back of a rubbish truck, and ends up miles from home. Obviously, like the rest of the young boys in my school whom were into computer games, football and Terminator 2, I loved The Animals of Farthing Wood, of which my story was a frolic in the sneezy fields of plagiarism. When I discovered Tolkien, I naturally stole merrily from him as well. I sat in my room, in front of an antique typewriter that made my fingers bleed, and I’d write pages of sub-elven bollocks with mythical swords and names that would drive Microsoft Word’s spellchecker into a red line frenzy.
But then, I’d been making up stories long before that and continued to do so long afterwards. I firmly believe that my Path To Writerdom was carved by the twin pickaxes of Being An Early Reader and (more importantly) Being An Only Child. Alone, but not lonely, I was the kind of kid that could find three rocks in the dirt that looked vaguely like spaceships and spend hours having some sort of titanic intergalactic battle. A tree branch would have any spare twigs removed so that it made the shape of a ‘Y’, which instantly became a sleek aircraft, and which would inevitably come to a tragic end with many mouth explosions (blame Thunderbirds). Although I don’t run around making noises with bits of wood with the same gusto that I did when my age was still a single digit, I still walk past things and see something more fantastical. That cable box is the headquarters of a totalitarian government. That raised manhole cover is a defended town on a hill.
The story that made me realise I could write something that someone else would want to hear about, came out of a single sentence spoken during a seminar at University. I was defending Holden Caulfield, as you do when you are at University and you feel no one understands you, from a friend and fellow student who liked Catcher In The Rye broadly speaking, but said that it was almost ruined because of Holden being (and this was the line) “….such a dickhead.” That became the first line in a story that would receive such praise and encouragement, not just from friends but from my University lecturer who graded it as part of a Creative Writing module. Many of my stories have come from such insignificant details or memories. In fact, looking back, I’d say my best work came from a tiny – I’m not fucking going to say seed – dust-ball, that was then allowed to drift across the floor gathering more dust and… jesus christ.
You get my point.
I have a new idea for a short story that I want to write this week. Unlike ‘Edward’, I haven’t over-thought it this time, so that my head won’t look and sound like an episode of Rhubarb & Custard. It’s a single idea, which I want to see grow and dev… What I mean is, it’s like a seed that bursts upon watering and flowe… It’s like the waves of a tide that crash deeper upon the….