I wanted to write when I was eight – I think I was drawn by all that action on those big cinema screens and the fact that it went into place because somebody made up something – Have to admit, I didn’t much like the movies we got back then, most lacked depth, realism just wasn’t, and some things were just plain stupid – I didn’t know the whys of it all at eight years old, but I did begin the process of imagining different endings and even different plots.
By the time I was twelve, I realized that I really did want to write and that – on the whole – actual writing would be involved. That meant I had to get going and actually do something. Movies would have been a choice, but was thoroughly out of my reach. I was only one person and I was a gazillion miles from the “right” circles (where people know people who know people), and who would buy me a camera anyhow? Writing a book, however, was a one-person activity. I could also think for myself and all I needed was paper and a pen, which I could get out of my own pocket money.
The What was easy. Getting into science fiction was a natural. Star Trek was on TV at the time and I used to sneak out of bed and hide in the hallway until it came on because I wasn’t allowed to sit up and watch it. I could see the TV from the hallway.
Science fiction was where the excitement was. Spaceships and colonization, aliens and oddities of flora and fauna – the sheer SIZE of the galaxy and the wonders of “light-years”. Everything about astronomy was a delight – I got my first telescope at age 13 and still have it (plus a much larger one).
Sci-fi books let me down, I admit it. There were some that I enjoyed (mostly small name authors that sadly I no longer recall), but most were political and always painted the future as a miserable place to be. At age fourteen, I was given “1984” to read and told it was a sci-fi – it bloody well is not! At that point 1984 was still in the future and (presumably to this person) anything in the future was science fiction.
Where were the spaceships? Colonization? Aliens? I dutifully read the dull and boring book and I still consider it a waste of time. No jumping on my head about it, either, please – yes, it contained a message, same as Animal Farm did (another disaster pretending to be a science fiction foisted upon me) – but a solid warning against communism in the future (i.e. now) is not science fiction, plain and simple.
So, I wrote what I wanted to read. Simple. As a writer, you can’t get more honest than that. Write what speaks to you, write what resonates with you. Don’t let ANYONE tell you differently. If it’s not in your heart, it won’t manifest on the page. You have to love what you write.
The number of times I was told that I “should” write this, that or the other rather than sci-fi is impossible to calculate. Girlie books, mostly. I didn’t like anything girlie – let’s be honest, the portrayal of women back in the 50s, 60s and 70s was pretty poor, even more so in science fiction. I was born in 1958, but those 50s movies were still showing in the 70s (on TV). You could always count on the big-busted female lead to scream lots and to fall over at least once. She also frequently didn’t have a brain, couldn’t manage simple logic, but was good to have on hand for sex appeal and to do the cooking. Girlie to me meant “stupid”. I was not going to write “stupid”.
I didn’t have Sevi back then, but I sure as heck had Jackie – ex-soldier and all. It was for Jackie’s character that I took up martial arts training with the cops in England in my early 20s (and ended up teaching it). I wanted to write fight scenes that were accurate and showed training. I’m not into catfights. I don’t like women portrayed as “stupid” (Sasha is a very deliberate exception, but if you look closely, she’s not stupid, either). Jackie, though, I wanted with brains and skill.
My own skills – writing and plotting skills – developed side-by-side. It took an age. Life got in the way. Schooling and jobs and relationships, a heap of negativity towards my wishes and dreams, but writing remained my joy and I always saw it as more than a hobby. It was always what I wanted to do first. Writing was everything, even though back then I seriously wasn’t good at it. Nevertheless, being a writer was all I ever wanted to be.
A lot of years went by. A lot of effort, a lot of work, a lot of tears. The books did not write themselves. I was not born with a talent to write. I chose to write and I worked at it. Painfully sometimes (oh, man!), but I persevered.
There’s more, there’s the Fumbles and the Bumbles, but you’re limited to time and so I’ll save the Fumbles and the Bumbles until tomorrow.
Point is, writing starts somewhere. It won’t land on you all at once. You didn’t wake up one morning to find that it had all magically appeared – talent, skill and the finished article. It’s a piece of art that is forming and everything you have got goes into it. Heart mostly. Soul, definitely.
If you are at the stage where your heart is burning and bursting with intent, but you look at your work and are disappointed by bits and pieces of it – Don’t be. It’s a process. Disappointment is what drives you to be better at it. And you do get better at it, step-by-step, often not even realizing it.
Don’t give up. Don’t ever – ever – give up. If it’s your dream, you live it to the max.
Have a great day, folks. Cheers to you all.