When I was young, writing was something that came naturally to me, but was also something weird and freaky – I didn’t know anyone else that wrote for pleasure. I had friends who were good at writing, who wrote amazing stories for English lessons, but as far as I knew, they didn’t go so far as writing their own stories outside of the classroom. (To be fair, my friends were much cleverer than me and got top marks in their GCSEs, so clearly they were using their time more productively rather than writing novels when they should have been revising!) I’m sure I can’t have been the only one, and certainly I won’t have been the only one having ideas, but I was the only one showing off about doing it.
This was back in the eighties and early nineties. Writing as a hobby felt isolated and obscure. Everything was hand-written or typed, and passed around as a single hard-copy. I didn’t even have a computer until 1999. I studied English Lit for my degree and took a job in a bookshop because it felt like the only way to get closer to my ambition of being a published writer, and even then it still felt like a dream rather than a career choice. There was only one way to get published – write a novel, send it to publishers and hope that someone liked it. Until then, keep working and write in your free time.
Things are pretty different today. There are many universities offering BAs and MAs in creative writing – how I would have jumped at the chance to do that when I was eighteen. KDP has opened up the whole of Amazon to self-published novel writers without the stigma of ‘vanity publishing’. And as for writing and presenting work on the internet – well, it is a massive world that I know nothing about. But my kids do. They read all kinds of work on the internet: fan fiction, web-comics, Tumblr posts. At times, I get frustrated that they are wasting their time on writing of dubious quality instead of reading real books. But at the same time, I have to admit that I am just jealous. Being honest to myself, I know that if I were eighteen now, I would be writing bad fan fiction and posting it for everyone to read. Actually, when I was eighteen, I did write bad fan fiction, which thankfully is still in a notebook and will never see the light of day, so maybe that is something to be thankful for. But there are so many more opportunities for writers to get their work “out there” that I would have embraced whole-heartedly, and who knows where that would have taken me.
Maybe with a bit of effort, I could still take advantage of those opportunities. After all, I have published my novels on KDP, and I set up this blog to promote myself. But I feel too old to go further than that; not incapable, but too old to jump on a bandwagon that belongs to another generation. It isn’t my fault that I was born when I was, but that doesn’t mean I can crash someone else’s opportunities. Maybe my sense of propriety is too sensitive, but that’s always been my way. So I will stick with my original plan – keep working, write on days off and keep sending out my submissions. Sometimes I feel bitter, but it’s the writing that really matters to me, and nothing stopped me doing that, and I guess that is the most important thing.
But for the younger generations, writing has become a hugely popular hobby, and no wonder, with so many opportunities. I see it amongst the teenagers I work with. And, joy of joys, I see it with my own kids, as all three of them write. I have watched them start stories and get excited about projects just like I did when I was their age. When my son was eight, he had me print off his “novel” – a sci-fi adventure, with one chapter per page. My daughters publish art and web-comics and fan fiction on the internet and receive thousands of likes – more than I ever get with this blog! I am so proud of them, and more than a little thrilled that they share this passion with me – and dare I say, ‘inherited’ from me. Of course, I will be proud of them and encourage them with whatever direction they choose to take in life, but if it happens to be writing – well, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a family of writers, like the Brontës, the Durrells or the Amis family! But no matter what, I will always encourage them to keep writing, just for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m sure they will – once a person discovers the joy of shaping words into sentences and paragraphs, creating people and worlds, it can be quite addictive.
However, this blog is not just about me being the proud mother. It is nearly the end of October, the time of year when I start to think about promoting my Advent Calendar Stories. Last year, I was so busy on other writing projects that I ran out of time to write a new story for my family. They were very understanding, and didn’t mind that I could only offer a repeat. But then, to my delight, one of my daughters took it upon herself to write the story herself. It was brilliant, a perfect Christmassy story about a brother and sister helping one of Father Christmas’s reindeer get back into the sky to catch up with the sleigh. And this year, all three of them have volunteered to provide a story. Now I know that my Advent Story Calendar has well and truly become a family tradition, and I have every confidence that they will be writing stories for their own family and friends long into the future. And if they ever make it big, I’ll be happy to take some of the credit!
For everyone else out there wanting a story for an Advent Calendar – there are ten to choose from in the Index of Stories. And they do say that reading to children is a very good way to encourage them to start writing their own stories…