In my writing class last week, my teacher gave us some writing prompts to choose from. I chose ‘How different would life be if you had the occupation that you dreamed of as a child’. It prompted me to write about my childhood ambitions, and from there I’ve gone on to write about an ambition that I have quietly nurtured for a very long time – the desire (or should that be ‘need’?) to be a writer.
Life would be very different if I had the occupation that I dreamed of as a child. For starters, I’d be dead. See, there’s this teensy little rule about being a saint that you actually have to be dead in order to be considered. However, nobody bothered to tell this to the four-year-old me who, one day, announced to her siblings that, after careful thought, I had decided that I wanted to be a saint when I was a grown up. The decision had come after many Sunday mornings spent sitting through Mass and reading through little books of the lives of the saints. I was too young to be expected to listen to the priest and say the responses to the prayers, so I was allowed to read. Reading material was Hobson’s choice as my parents said the books had to be religious, so I contented myself with my books about the saints and nurtured my new aspiration.
Shortly after this, I decided I wanted to be a Catholic priest.
“You can’t be a priest – you’re a girl!” my sister laughed.
“I’ll be the first girl priest then!” I retorted.
I think this ambition lasted an even shorter amount of time than my desire to be a saint.
The next ambition was more career-driven. I decided, still aged four, that I was going to be a pilot. I have no recollection of how this came about, as I had never been in a plane, my parents had never been in a plane, and we didn’t live anywhere near an airport. Nonetheless, in my mind I was all set to embark upon an exciting and successful career in the skies – the pilot’s hat would be an added bonus.
Of course, it’s all rather different now as I drag myself out of bed at 6am and trudge into the office each day. I doubt any child has ever aspired to working for the local authority and I often wonder when it was that I stopped dreaming up the exciting careers that I had in mind when I was younger. I often wish that I still had the ability to dream as limitlessly about my career as my four-year-old self, who saw no boundaries in the possibility of a dream being achieved.
Last year, after another dull day at work, I decided that it was time to allow myself to dream again. I decided that it was time to ‘come out’ about my desire to be a writer, and to take steps to try and make it happen. I realised that, since it has always been a dream, there was little to be gained by keeping it a secret as this would only serve to ensure that nothing came of it. Since then, I have signed up to Creative Writing night-classes and I have been using most of my free time to practice writing – either working on exercises from class, working on a story that I am writing, or using writing prompts. The latest step has been setting up my blog in order to share my work and allow it to reach a wider audience.
I cannot remember a time when I did not love to write. Throughout primary school my favourite task was the Monday morning ‘write about your weekend’ activity, and in Year 4 I started a school magazine. It was at secondary school that I began to write miniature essays for the sake of it – like writing a piece about my first journey in an aeroplane at the age of 11, or researching and writing a science essay about what the universe is expanding into at the age of 15. There are two things in particular which have helped me to develop my writing skills: letter writing and keeping a journal. My mother and grandmother are keen letter writers so I was raised on a diet of pen, paper and postage stamps; this encouraged me to consider the purpose of what I wrote and the audience. I was nine years old when I began to keep a journal, and I still maintain this today. It has helped me to hone how to write about events, how to put emotions on paper and how to describe individuals so that they step off the page when you read.
So here I am, seizing the bull by the horns and trying to squeeze some reality out of my dream to be a writer. After all, in the words of Passenger, “the only failure is never to try”.