I have been thinking a lot lately about the influences that shape my writing. I wanted to get it down, just to see where I started and to give me some perspective as to where I am going.
As a child I devoured books. I knew my favorites off by heart and would get very annoyed when Mum or Dad would skip a page, or several, while trying to put me to sleep. I was a difficult child.
Fast forward to primary school and my love of books continued. What’s more is that I found out what a library was. My little mind couldn’t even begin to understand that there was a place that people went to read. To just sit and read. Wow. (Look, I’m sure that my parents took me to the library, but I was too young to remember). But walking into the little school library was a revelation. I would have spent my class time in there if I could.
I was also the type of kid who over organised everything. If I had a birthday party I would have schedules and timetables for everyone to follow. If we were going to have a game of basketball, then I would have the teams picked out and written on a list for all to see. I did this at least three weeks before the event. Yes, I was one of those children. Which isn’t to say I’m like that as an adult, even though I still make lists, I don’t expect people to follow them – except my husband! I think this is where my love of structure comes from. Wanting to write my own story, having control over characters and what happens in their lives. It takes care of my need to have godly like control over everything. Even though the characters don’t always play by the rules either, but at least I can throw my note pad across the room. It’s less frowned upon than throwing a person. At least I can write the rules of the world and let my characters go nuts and I just wait and see what happens.
It’s no surprise that I loved creative writing. English was always the first part of my homework I did. In year 5 I found a pen that I was certain I was going to write with for the rest of my life. It was a fat pen and far too big for my little hands, it had a woodgrain look casing and black ink. I was devastated when my teacher told me that I could only write in blue pen. I was adamant that I was going to use this pen forever and that I couldn’t possible create anything without this implement. I have no idea where that pen is today.
Primary school is also where I picked up my appreciation for the theatre. The school had an acting troupe come in and they performed the life of Mary Mackillop. It was then that I thought, I could do that. So I did. I had the main part in plays and always put my hand up to be a tree or a rock in a different scene to my main character. I loved reading out the carefully crafted words, especially words I didn’t understand like suspicious. I loved it because it was brand new and it gave me a buzz to think ‘yep I learned that!’ I had a number of wonderful teachers in primary school, but there was one in particular who encouraged me to write better, to think outside of my own little world. I saw her a number of years later. I was in year 12 at the time and she asked how things were.
I told her that I was doing Advanced English and English Extension 1 and 2. This a fancy way of saying that I studied a lot of English. At least two periods a day and Extension 2 was taken after school. There were only five people in that class. She smiled, just like teachers do and said “I always knew it was your forte.”
So high school was filled with English and Drama. My love for words helped me to excel in both. We won’t mention the dismal maths results that plagued my report cards. I had two wonderful English teachers during my time there. One in particular taught my Extension English subjects and made sure I wasn’t pulling my hair out over my thesis. I stopped and started that blasted thing over 7 times. I just had too much to write, eventually I settled on a stream of consciousness thesis based on the sensationalised portrayal of serial killers in films. It was dark, it was gritty and it pushed my boundaries.
I mentioned last week about my time at NIDA so I won’t go into it again here. But my Drama teachers at high school – who were many – were all inspiring in their own way. They let me write and direct plays and gave me free reign over the content, even if it was a little controversial, but isn’t that what a good theatrical pieces are all about?
After leaving school, I immediately got a corporate job and got a little lost creatively. Not because of my work but because I wanted to live my life. I didn’t understand that those experiences shaped the kind of writer I would become. The great conversations, the experiences good and bad are all a part of the way I approach characters and stories. For a long time, I thought the 10 or so years I wasn’t working creatively were a waste, especially since most of my life up until that point was spent writing. I always read – always. Reading for me is like breathing. It is pure, essential escapism. But it wasn’t wasted, I was learning every day. With every disappointment, with every joyous moment and even the heart breaking days were a lesson. Although when I was 21 I didn’t see that, these musings are all retrospective.
So now writing is a cathartic outlet for me. I create my little worlds and people to fill them and I put it all on paper. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I can only hope that I never stop doing it.
Photo by Susanne Nilsson via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons
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