Where do writers come from? I don’t know for certain, and there will always be exceptions to any rule, but generally I think writers come from passionate readers. After all, if you don’t read books, why on earth would you want to write one? Like I said, there are exceptions, some people no doubt write books after being inspired by something incredible in their lives that just filled them with a need to pick up a pen. Generally though, I think you just grow up as a writer, even if you don’t notice at first and go along thinking you want to grow up to be a vet or a racing driver.
I was lucky, I knew what I wanted to be from fairly early on; aged about 7 I had ambitions to be a vet, a pet shop owner, a newsreader and a wolf (yes, you did read that last one right) and I also had a burning desire to write down the stories that kept racing through my head.
My first real writing endeavour was in one of those square exercise books where half of the page is lined and the other left blank for pictures. This tatty, dog-eared little notebook was the home of my first ‘series’ of stories, written when I was about six years old. Each story was a double page spread long on average and contained about 4 sentences (often written out by my Mum or brother first so that I could copy the letters). Every one was illustrated (badly) and there were probably about 15 or so in total. ‘Tim and Tom’ were a cat and a dog and they went on adventures together such as visiting the park or going shopping. The series came to a dramatic end when I got bored of my two beloved characters, probably shortly after my seventh birthday in a fit of ‘I’m too old for this now’ temper, for the final story read, quite simply: ‘Tim and Tom were in danger. Tim died. Tom didn’t. The End.’
It wasn’t much, but it was a start. The first of many ‘books’ I wrote between then and the age of about 14 – all fairly dire but good practice all the same.
It was when I hit fifteen that I lost my ‘finishing powers’ – unless it was work for school or college I tended to get halfway through pieces and then start something new as soon as it popped into my head. This resulted in story upon story that stopped abruptly somewhere in the middle and never ever found conclusions. I had one piece that I started when I was 16 and continued, on and off, until I got to university and realised that, despite being over 11,000 words long, it was actually fairly terrible and beyond rescue – it wasn’t going anywhere other than on and on… So I put it down and left it alone. The story may have been a failure but I was rather fond of one of the characters and he has since cropped up in other pieces, that actually had direction and purpose. Sometimes his name changes but he is still effectively the same person, a tip I picked up on my course at University – just because a story has failed, it doesn’t mean there is nothing in it worth keeping.
This inability to finish things lasted a few years until I started at university and the sudden total focus on writing alone, rather than mixed in with other subjects as it had been all through school and college, brought back my ability to write endings. And short stories. And poems. And other forms I didn’t even know existed or had just never really tried like prose poetry, short-short stories and non-fiction writing. I was flourishing and didn’t even realise it until almost the end of my final year.
Then University was over and I was thrust into the real world with a 2:1 Creative Writing BA and a new baby. I was suddenly ‘Mummy’ as well as ‘Carole’ (well, I’d had a few months to get used to the idea but it’s not the same until the baby actually arrives) and I didn’t have anybody telling me what to write any more. Not that I was ever restricted to what others wanted me to write but that had always been a major factor in life until then. I didn’t have any specific deadlines or reading lists and it as up to me to get stuff done. Eeeek.
Being a new Mum threw me off course a bit, which is hardly unexpected, but always, even when I was barely writing a sentence a week and only reading at 3 in the morning whilst feeding Tori, I was a writer.
I’m getting back into the swing of things now, I’m used to being Mummy and I know how to balance her with being Carole. Why am I a writer? Because that’s who I am, it’s that simple. I wouldn’t want it any other way.