… oh take me back to the start.
Sorry I could not resist. This months WriYe blog topic is all about beginnings. Now this was something I had already thought about this week, when I filled out the Publish and Thrive pre-course workbook. It’s not an altogether happy tale but there is a singular theme – endurance.
Describe your writing beginnings. How did you get started?
I learnt to string words together into sentences, managed to grasp holding an implement to etch them on paper and boom it’s story time. Seriously I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write stories. It’s something that has always been a part of me. Now my memory is full of holes and so it’s hard to remember. I ‘think’ I first started doing self-insert fanfic with the Famous Five. I was a precocious reader and was on those books from when I was about four I believe. However, I don’t have any records of that. The earliest records I have were from when I was about nine and I started writing Diagnosis Murder fanfiction.
It wasn’t all entirely fanfic. I did start a couple of mystery novels when I was eleven. They didn’t go anywhere beyond a few pages, I think I wrote what was in my head and then just didn’t pick it up again. The fanfic was awful, full of OC’s, but I did start posting on the internet when I was 11 (I know, thankfully I think the earliest stuff has been lost to time). The posting did teach me how to finish stories at least.
When I was 15-16, something like that, I decided that I would quit the fanfic to focus on original. That didn’t go well. I spent some time planning but didn’t do much writing. It turns out having a minimal audience is a good incentive. I discovered NaNo when I was 17 and wrote I think 20k my first year. I learnt a lot from that, namely the difference between world and plot (I had a lot of the former, and not much of the latter).
For the next few years I pretty much only wrote during NaNo. I would always intend to write during the year, and might occasionally open up documents, but for the most part it wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write, I would just forget and time would pass. I’d get caught up in the day to day and wouldn’t make time I guess. It’s a bit like I am with reading books these days. I want to do it, I just somehow manage to go months without doing it.
What was your “a-ha” moment that made you realize this was something you wanted to pursue?
Right well this gets complicated. When I was 11, which was when I first started writing fanfic for the internet, I had a talk with myself. Up until then I’d always dreamed of being a writer but I started high school that year and I told myself it was time to get real. I needed to think of something realistic to do with my life and ensure I got the grades to make that happen. I told myself I would never be good enough to write for a living, that it could be a hobby, but it could never be more than that.
I cried. Not going to lie I made myself cry. I kinda crushed my own dreams there a little bit. Well as I said when I was about 16 (so last year of high school) I decided I wanted to focus on original writing. Why? Well I’d started this fanfic which really didn’t feel much like a fanfic. It actually felt like it had legs and I could make more of it. It’s no accident that it happened at that age. I was starting to noticeably struggle with life and I was flailing around for a metaphoric life preserver. I needed something to hang onto as everything else, the pillars around which I had tried to build my life, were crumbling.
Went to sixth form and had to face facts – again. The year before I’d ruled out being a doctor, as much as I wanted to help people I couldn’t face being responsible for people’s lives. This year (2007) I had to rule out being a lawyer as well because I just wasn’t smart enough. I’d always done well in school up until now but my A’s turned to C’s/D’s and no amount of effort changed that. I had started programming in PHP in my spare time and my mother suggested I look to that for a career so I did. I went to university to study web programming and my life started to fall apart even more.
I knew deep down, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted to write and nothing else really, after I had a couple of months work experience at a website making company. It was an incredibly miserable experience for lots of reasons (the boss was a bully for a start). At this point I was still telling myself that it was unrealistic but I couldn’t keep going any longer. I just couldn’t cope with life. I had a mental breakdown, failed out of uni and moved back home.
It’s like I was fighting myself because I knew I wanted to write, but I was still telling myself not to be stupid and to try other things. Years went past, my mental state deteriorated more and more with the passing of time. I was supposed to be getting better and instead I was getting worse. 2014 came and I think I said something like “screw it” as I learned that self-publishing was a thing. I’d been on disability since 2011 and I thought I was at rock bottom, I guess I figured I had nothing left to lose.
Can I call that an “a-ha” moment? It was a desperate hope born of complete desperation. To be honest a lot of why I still want to self-publish is because it’s the only future I can see for myself. I’ve since had two further mental breakdowns, I’m worse than I ever was. It’s writing or it’s nothing at this point, and I don’t want to do nothing forever.
As I said the theme is endurance. Writing has been a part of me for my entire life. My first attempt at self-pubbing didn’t work, my second attempt might have been alright but I got a major life curveball and just stopped. I’m hoping for third time lucky. I need it to work, it’s all I’ve got.