The Moment I Knew I Wanted To Be A Writer
I don’t know if many people’s dreams are born in a poorly-lit classroom in one of the more salubrious parts of south-east London, but mine was. I had enrolled on a creative writing course at my local adult education centre when my second child was eight months old. I felt that my brain was beginning to fester like something lurking at the back of the fridge and I needed to re-engage with people over the age of two. I can’t tell you how exciting those first few hours were back in the company of adults. The world seemed bright with possibility. My classmates were as diverse a group as you could ever hope to meet, each bringing a different spark of insight on the world. It was like returning to school but in a good way because we all wanted to be there. I sat with my fellow writers (for that’s what we instantly became) during the tea-break, nibbling a flapjack and sipping weak coffee from a Styrofoam cup and fell in love with the world again.
There were exercises to stimulate the imagination, books to read and homework! I loved the homework. One week we were given an open brief: write a short story about anything you like, to be circulated for review. This was an enjoyable task, particularly when you got to scrutinise other people’s work – everyone’s a critic after all. However, when it came to the week when you were put under the spotlight, well that was a different matter. Our group consisted of serious writers, part-time scribblers and those who wanted to give it a go but didn’t think they’d be any good and probably needed to be shaken by the shoulders and told to get on with it. I was a founder member of the third category. ‘Just write about what you know,’ said my ever-patient husband. ‘I only know about fish fingers and sippy-cups,’ I wailed. ‘Well write about those then.’ I didn’t. I wrote a story about a man who is granted three wishes by a belligerent fairy he meets in the pub one day. I submitted it to my writing colleagues and waited a week, trying to dismiss the churning fear that I would be laughed out of the classroom. It turned out they liked it. One classmate berated me for using bad language. Fair enough. Another suggested building the characters a little more. Duly noted. One man, the most critical of our number and someone who always had a lot to say turned to me, his face impossible to read. ‘I have to tell you,’ he began. I held my breath. ‘That I just wish I could write something as good as that.’
And that was the moment. The moment I realised that I might have a future with this writing lark; that I might have finally found something I was good at and would love to do as a job. ‘Brilliant,’ I thought as I drove home that evening. ‘I’ll become a writer then.’ It would take another five years and two books before I felt confident enough to call myself a writer again. But that’s another story…
Annie Lyons is the best-selling author of Not Quite Perfect (now available in paperback) and Not Quite Perfect Christmas (A Short Story). Her new novel Dear Lizzie is published by Carina and is available as an eBook.