I didn’t think I was going to grow up to be a writer. In fact I remember telling my Grade 6 teacher that I was going to be an astronaut and my English teacher in Grade 11 who thought I had some talent, that I was going to study law (I went through a phase where I was going to save not only the innocent from the gallows but the whales from extinction. I have yet to snap out of this phase. Presently committed to Saving the Rhino). www.savetherhino.org
Yet I was a story-teller from early on and was inspired by fairy tales and Enid Blyton to find magic in the garden’s fig tree and enchantment in a neighbour’s orchard (more on that at a later date). I only got round to following this call to write more earnestly when the first gray hairs sprouted like vermicelli on the side of my head. I wrote novellas as a teen for my friends; thinly plotted and implausible romances in which damsels-in-distress were saved from the clutches of evil (dragons, painted cannibals, highwaymen and an alien with tentacles for feet) in a variety of settings: English moors, deserted islands, African Savannah and the Space Shuttle (inspired by the Bond movie).
After school I abandoned writing in favour of ‘real life’ as if writing (fiction of course) would somehow ‘slow’ me down as I worked my way up the career ladder or make me seem less quirky and ‘bookish’. I tried. I did. I even got contact lenses and wore dark suits because I worked in Finance but people still called me ‘quirky’ and ‘bookish’ anyway, to my face. Maybe it was the lines of poetry on yellow post-its stuck to my computer screen. Maybe it was because I was always making stories up. What I do know is the ‘regulars’ who shared the bus to and from work with me all led vivid and eventful lives. There was the Jiu Jitsu black belt (he looked Brazilian, sounded Portuguese) juggling a dozen girlfriends; the nanny who worked for a power couple who slept over with the baby when they forgot to come home from their respective offices; the woman (with the eye patch)who on visiting a privately owned zoo and standing too close to the tiger’s cage lost an eye …
You see it’s not that I have a problem with reality it’s just that I prefer what’s going on inside my head.
The point is this, I denied myself too long. You may be guilty of the same, denying yourself the pleasure of creating art for the sake of Self. Wearing a mask or hiding your light as they say so you can make it ‘out there’ in the real world. Don’t do it. People aren’t stupid. They’ll see right through you. Tell them who you are before your body parts sag; before your brain fogs over. Even better show them who you are, if you can afford to write or paint or draw all day, great! If not – show them anyway.
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books. – George Orwell