OK, let’s start at the beginning, and let’s start with me – because that’s what writers do – they start with themselves and their own experiences of life.
When did I first write something that was important to me? (Apart from school homework – uggghh!) It was in the early 1970s, not long after I’d become a member of the Whitehaven Theatre Group. I was swiftly discovering I was no kind of actor, but that I loved being involved as a backstage hand – props were to be my favourite job, and whether acting or not, I attended all the rehearsals. We were preparing a production of ‘Oliver’, in which I had a part in the chorus (I can sing), and one evening I was asked to stand in for Nancy and allow myself to be killed by Bill Sykes – several times!
I had little to do, as I was just off-stage, but as you can imagine it was a powerful experience, and that night I couldn’t get to sleep. Eventually I got up and wrote a free-form poem about what Nancy was feeling as she tried to help Oliver escape, and how she died not knowing that it was going to come out right in the end.
Sadly, I can’t share it with you, since in all my moves from place to place it’s gone missing – perhaps it’s still in a file in Dodoma, Tanzania! But the point is, I had to write it. It insisted on being written. What I’d experienced of Nancy’s hopes, fears and final despair had become personal and I needed to capture it on paper.
Of course not every word an author writes is as powerful and insistent as that – but that’s where most writers start, with something that must be written – and if it comes out well, then we’re hooked, and writing becomes important because as we do it we discover who we are and how the world works.
You might disagree with me – your first experience of writing something memorable might have been very different – but that was mine. Let me know yours!