A very good question, though I say so myself!
I shall be fifty-eight in just under a month’s time – and my love affair with the written word started when I was four or five. I had just started primary school – and learned that the five strange symbols written on a sheet of paper were my name. They were me, who I was. The sound of those letters put together made ‘Bambi’ (the nickname by which I was known until I left home at eighteen). I can still taste the wonder and excitement this discovery caused.
Born a writer? Maybe that is a bit of a grandiose claim – but I do think there’s an element of truth in it. I always seem to have viewed the world through the medium of words. My love of landscape, for example, started very early – and I was describing sunrises and Moon phases in a writerly way long before I knew what a writer actually was.
You could say, with some justification, that I am, first and foremost, a diarist. The diary has been my constant companion since I was two days away from my fourteenth birthday – and it is a rich source of emotional release as well as being my main forge for firing up the bellows of inspiration and working on my craft. All five of my novels started through the diary one way or another.
In truth, I write all the time. It is easier for me than the spoken word. Most days will find me curled up in my huge armchair (which, in itself, has a varied and lovely history), the latest volume perched on my lap, Waterman pen (with black, purple, green or pink ink, depending on which cartridge I grab from the tin!) scurrying busily across the page, its metaphorical net trawling for thoughts, ideas, emotions, descriptions…
When did I become a blogger? June 2012. I have faltered along the way, deleted blogs and lost thousands of posts by so doing. But they carried a taint. They were, like the Ancient Mariner’s Albatross, a poisonous weight round my neck – and, for all that there was a whole sea of creative water surrounding me, truly there was ‘not a drop to drink’…
When did I become a novelist? I wrote my first novel (now lost) when I was eighteen and waiting to go to university. Another (still extant) followed when I was about twenty or twenty-one – and then two poured out in quick succession in 1983 and 1984 (when I was twenty-five and twenty-six). The earlier of those two has been published, as ‘Riding at the Gates of Sixty‘, in March of this year.
There was, then, a long gap in which I wrote nothing but the journal – and a few poems.
Then, in 2004, I started what became ‘Long-Leggety Beasties‘ – published in January of this year.
Blog-related posts provided me with a rich source of novels in potentia, particularly my musings about, and personal experiences of, the wonderful world of sex – and my life-long love of landscape.
If there is one thing I have learned as a writer, it is this: The only voice that carries any weight is the true one coming from your heart. It is no good writing to please or soothe others. Holding back out of fear of another’s reaction does not, and cannot, work: The words seep out anyway, and the pressure can cause an explosion. Trying to catch a populist trend is also a hiding to nothing in my view: One can only twist one’s style, one’s authorial integrity, so far before it snaps and, rebounding, catches one a painful poke in the eye!
I can only ever be me. Flawed, yes – but a writer for all that. Yes, as someone once commented, I am cracked – but the light shines through the cracks.
Writing is not something I do. It is something I am. It is something I have been for nearly fifty-four years.
Power to my elbow, says I!