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Before the Embryo

Written just before going to university.

If everything has a beginning, then my birth as a writer must have been on a stereotypically sunny day about 2 months before my 16th birthday.  It was then that a close friend handed me a book of short stories that was to change my life.  It wasn’t wrapped or anything, it wasn’t that kind of gift.  But as I later opened it and began to read it, I knew it was something special.

Every writer has the epiphany, the moment they know they want to write, imagine, create.  As I finished reading one story and began another, I could feel the lights changing, realising that I finally knew where the road signs were pointing to.

Yet it must be more than that.  For as great as those stories are, I know there must be more than that.  While “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” was the spark that produced the flame, there has to have been something else, something that made the spark become a flame.

As far as I can remember I’d always been into books, pestering my parents for one more story every night.  I’d been reading books then for 13 years and yet not once had I wanted to be a creative writer.  From primary school I’d wanted to be a football journalist once I’d realised that my football drawings while certainly original were not worthy of widespread acclaim.

It had to be a book that was to lead me to my future.  I had never met a famous writer, I had never been inspired to write for a competition simply because I had never seen one, and I had never known anyone who believed that I could be a writer.  Being honest with myself, I wouldn’t have much to have written about.  I grew up in a quiet neighbourhood, in a small family, and I still hadn’t discovered what really inspired me.

In that sense then, it was inevitable.  Sooner or later of all the books I read I was going to find one that would inspire and encourage.

The image would be so romantic and so much more perfect if I said that I immediately picked up a pen and started writing, but naturally that would be false and unrealistic.  I still hadn’t anything to say for one thing.  But I was still curious enough to start reading more short stories, in all types of fields.  Some were incredible, some were unfinishable.

But, soon before Christmas, I wrote my short story.  Its mournful theme was nothing to do with me, but from a set of newspaper headlines which I knew represented stories that would soon be forgotten. The pen never left my hand.  I knew I had something to say, and in a style that I wanted to say it in.  I wasn’t going to limit myself to what I knew.  Writing is exploring.

It’s strange looking back to the time when an enthusiastic child began making full use of his writing book a few weeks later.  Everything went into that book, it became my most important possession.

Obviously, new and different inspirations would be added.  Going through all the teenage years would lead to the exaggerated experiences of a teenager in the form of joy, surprise, confusion, insecurity, rage, disappointment and whatever ones i missed out on.  And yet there was more.

Once people knew I wanted to be a writer, everyone started suggesting ideas, going into detail as to why the idea would work, but succeeding in convincing me why it wouldn’t.  In all honesty, it was often the most simple of things that would lead to stories.  Being given a gargoyle keyring by my sister would lead to “Rules and Retributions”, seeing a ladder outside a neighbour’s garden would lead to “Worth the Weight”, hearing a neighbour criticise to us of another would result in “Caught in the Middle”.

It’s one thing knowing why I write, another just as important is how I write, a question I ask of others as much as I ask of myself.  It’s a hard thing to explain.  I never sit at a desk in front of my computer not having something to say.  Chances are, I’ve been throwing the idea around for a while.  In that time the beginning and end have already resolved themselves before staring at a blank screen.  The answer to the question then is that writing takes place in delayed train journeys, waiting for a bus, the wet walk home or even just waiting for the adverts to finish.

Writing is all about who you are and what you want.  You have life in your hands and can drive in any direction you want.  Writing is about the ability to draw on a blank canvas, direct a new set of actors and compose a new tune with an eager orchestra.

But wait, there’s no hidden secret, no magic formula?

Of course not.  The only wand is our fingers, the only trick is our imagination.  You have the ability to make an audience see things that only you can make appear, and disappear.  As the quote goes, don’t follow the path and instead think about the trail you can leave.  And just watch those sparks fly and the smoke rise as you do.  After all, you don’t want to paint someone else’s canvas, direct someone else’s script, play someone else’s piece.  Not when you have the opportunity to create your own.