When I was six years old I wrote a story called ‘The Little Dinosaur’. Everybody loved my story and it was pinned to the classroom wall, along with my name written in big letters. All visitors to the classroom were directed to admire my story, and I would raise my head as the teacher pointed to me:
‘This little girl wrote it.’
I knew then, that I was destined to become a Very Famous Writer.
I don’t remember much about how I felt when I wrote the story, other than that I loved spelling out the word ‘Diplodocus’, which was a silly-sounding word at the same time as being very clever, because using this word meant that you had learnt the name of a type of dinosaur. I also remember that I could not draw a dinosaur and this was annoying, but it didn’t matter too much because when I was a famous writer I could just use long words like ‘Diplodocus’ all the time, and everybody would be impressed.
Books, old and new, were all around me in those days. Books that my mother read as a child, books that smelt of fresh glue and pine. Books to lull me to sleep at night, my head on my Dad’s scratchy wool jumper, listening to his voice reverberating from his chest as it carried me away on a rhythmic sea of words. Books that I would read again in a few years, silent in a cave of blankets, the thin beam of light from my torch taking me deeper into imaginary worlds.There were forbidden books on my parents’ bookshelves (‘too old for you’) – these books I would dive in and out of, opening them at random to read a couple of chapters, hastily returning them when I heard footsteps. Eventually I would have read every page of the book and would piece the plot together like a jigsaw.
When I won a regional poetry competition at the age of 11, and got to choose myself some silver hoop earrings with my prize money, I didn’t realise that I had peaked too early.
Only a year later would come a defeat, in front of my high school class – after all those years of praise from adults for my writing, it was put to the test in a classroom writing competition, the winner voted in by the class.
My story didn’t win.
I realised that no matter how perfectly crafted my writing, if people didn’t find my stories interesting then I would never be a Very Famous Writer. I would just be someone who was good at writing.
From this moment, my writing became a secret thing, and my ambition something I never dared to mention. I wrote every morning and every evening, but never when anyone was looking.
I wrote a diary. I described and mused upon my life in minute detail.
Strangely enough, my diary was interesting to my peers, as I found out when it was discovered on a school holiday.
‘It’s very good. When you read it you feel as if you are actually there,’ said the diary-stealer as she handed it back to me, having gleefully discovered (and told the whole school about) my secret crush. Her compliment did not cheer me up. Not one bit.
It was the first time that my writing got me into trouble, but it would not be the last.
At 22, I learned to touch type. Now my thoughts could unfurl on the screen faster than the speed of thought. I discovered email, and I was trigger-happy with the ‘Send’ button.
I found that I couldn’t stop writing – the words would find a way out one way or another.
And the Little Dinosaur story? My Dad had an artist friend draw the Diplodocus family; on each page of my words, typed up on an old fashioned typewriter, was a different illustration.
It’s still there, in his drawer – waiting for the sequel that I will write, one day….
This post was written in response to the Daily Post Challenge ‘Writerly Reflections’.