I had always written from a very early age. It was in my blood. It was what enchanted the little girl who used to sit and scribble for hours and hours, pouring ideas and thoughts into the pages I had before me…..
At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing, but this essay is going to be a look-back, an in-depth analysis of the rocky journey I took (and continue to take) in order to transform into the author I wish one day to be.
It won’t be an easy read, and at times, you might need to take a breather, but this has been a long time in the making and only now – following on from all the chapters of my past – have I realised what happened and how I used my love of language to cope with everything that ensued.
I don’t think I am, but I know I need to be….
Fanfiction and Fantasy:
I have touched on this briefly in my blog, but I haven’t gone into much detail about it all…. When I was little, I was a voracious reader and one of the series that I became obsessed with was Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five…. As it turned out, this love of literature would transpose into a hobby that I still do today…. Fanfiction.
I was quite shy when I was younger (hard to believe, for if you met me now, you would see that I’m entirely the opposite) but I would often immerse myself in the adventures of these children, creating my own exciting plots and my own scheming villains – a popular trait that would run through most of my writing life. I still have the stories somewhere; stapled together neatly, all written in pencil (Maybe I just didn’t have a pen to hand when I was small, but pencil was the tool then!) There would be other stories too often centred around animals, (I remember a ladybird in a car?) – and as I got older, I even wrote a story loosely based on Homeward Bound where a Golden Retriever and Rottweiler were deadly enemies…..
My Coping Strategy
As the years went by, my Famous Five love and tales of brave animals were replaced by an altogether entirely different franchise: Harry Potter. At secondary school, I began to write my own stories revolving around the protagonists, and by the time I arrived at college, I had started to post them on a Harry Potter fanfiction website….
It is important to note that at this time (circa 2005) I was going through a horrible bout of depression; a depression that I felt would never end. I didn’t realise then, but this escapism into Hogwarts, spell casting, potion making and Quidditch was my lifeline. I needed these worlds to be happy – and by constructing all these narratives it meant that I was away from my other self; the sad side of me that I couldn’t face.
We all manage anxiety and depression in various ways (for some, it’s unfortunately drinking, others it’s drugs etc), but mine was writing. In comparison with the latter, this kind of therapy was a thousand times better and healthier than if I had turned to alcohol or drugs. The fact was that I wasn’t ready to leave secondary school, but there was no sixth form offered there, which meant that I by going somewhere completely new with no true friends, and my Mum wasn’t happy in her job too – I just lived in this whole other dimension; a dimension with multiple cracks that I couldn’t fix.
A year later, something happened that shattered everything I knew and held onto. I won’t go into detail, because even though this blog is meant to be a healing entry, they wouldn’t want me to reveal anything personal, but it was because of this that I found myself wanting to fall down that rabbit hole even more…. I would use my adoration of fantasy to act out Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Robin Hood and Merlin. Why? because, despite how hard their lives were, I wanted to be with them; anything apart from exist in the reality that surrounded me.
I found myself drifting off to the local coffee shop and writing from ten in the morning right up until they were sweeping the floors. I hated leaving. I wanted to stay there. Anything was better than worrying constantly, staying up all night, and torturing myself with anxieties. I would go so far as to spend ages in lucid dreams, because I didn’t want to face life outside of them.
Sometimes, I would play the Harry Potter movies through my head just to disassociate myself with how I was feeling at the time. I always assumed it was because I was wild about the boy wizard (and to an extent, that was true), but what I’ve only just come to realise is that Harry Potter represented freedom; a freedom that I never had mentally – and during the moments I did feel better, they were short-lived and always rooted in fiction.
Even the weeks before university, I went through a patch that made me think I had ‘gone off’ writing (a pattern that was to repeat over and over through the years to come) It wasn’t because I had turned away from the written page, it was because it was the most important thing in my life and the idea that it was to snap, or had left me, was heart breaking. I would later understand these times to be a fear of change or a deviation from the norm.
I would always be a writer.
The only difference was…
that I was learning to be a healthy one.
Realisations and Reflection:
I remember when I arrived at university, my motto was ‘Writing is a breath of fresh air, you need it for living, you love it for life’ – but it’s only now (more than a decade later) that I understand exactly what I meant:
‘A breathe of fresh air’ ie something I can go to when I feel upset, ‘you need it for living’ – I needed it to pass through the hard days, and ‘you love it for life’ – it’s a part of me, and always will be. At the time, I remember just reading that motto and smiling to myself, believing that it was JUST due to a passion for writing that had made me invent that quote…..
I came out of university with a 2:1 in Creative Writing, but the worries and insecurities were still there – and I carried them around with me as though I had an invisible backpack filled with them.
Looking back, it’s no surprise that the one book I decided to write was one about a lost boy who is taken to a floating land (I was the lost boy in myself, and the floating land was this magical entity, where nothing bad happened) Ironically, most of my storylines regarding Will Worthington are fraught with danger – but I think the difference was, I viewed this in a way as an outpouring of all my emotions in another form. Someone else had the riddles to solve. Even my villain, Kazamir Kirrolivitch had a subconscious link to what I was going through, I just didn’t know it at the time. I find myself needing to mention J.K. Rowling’s grief over her mother, and how the Dementors were a literal representation of that pain.
If I did this like a chart, I think I would see this:-
Age 3 + Writing due to a love of imagination and a way of coping with shyness
Age 10 + Writing due to a love of imagination and story as a form in itself (learning how it works) and a sort of escapism due to bullying
Age 15 + Writing due to a love of imagination and story as a form and now escapism from worry and anxiety/unrequited loves/writing for more than 10 hours a day
Age 20 + Writing due to a love of imagination and story as a form, escapism from worry and anxiety in my reality/unrequited loves
Age 30 + Writing due to a love of imagination and story as a form, escapism from worry and anxiety in my reality/unrequited loves
Age 34 + Writing just because I love to create, not because I need to escape, and writing due to my love of narrative structure and imagination/writing in a much healthier way/coping better with anxiety!
As I begin to peel back the layers of who I am as a writer, I now accept that I might have slightly different ‘buzzy’ feelings when it comes to writing anything. It’s not because the love for it has gone or faded, it’s due to the patchwork of my life….
I now feel like a more ‘normal’ writer too. I would never see how anyone could have a lazy day of writing, or not want to do anything sometimes. It wasn’t something that was on my radar – and if it was, I would go into a panic, terrorising myself with questions like ‘Do I not want this enough anymore?’ ‘Am I losing interest in the written word?’ It seems laughable reading those back, but it has taken me a very long time to accept that ….
a) It’s okay to not want to write sometimes or to not feel excited ALL THE TIME WHEN YOU ARE
b) It’s okay to overthink things, but don’t let it overtake who you are inside
c) It’s a good thing to take days off for latent processing/makes your writing stronger for the breaks
d) It’s a good thing to reflect on your past, but look forward to the future
And honestly? At the end of it all,
I’m a much better writer for it.