I still remember the first story I ever wrote.
I was five or six years old, and it was just over half a page long. Written on a DOS computer and printed off on that paper with the tearaway sides (easily the best thing about computers back when they had exactly three colours, one word processor and pong), it was about a friendly alien encounter in the Northern Territory. I illustrated it, my teacher entered it in some competition, and I won first prize and $10.
The bug was ignited (it’s apparently a flammable bug). I was a working writer, damn it, and I wanted more.
I wrote and illustrated my first book a year later: The Man In The Moon, six pages detailing the prison break of a criminal who stowed away in a spaceship (the science checked out, I asked my plushie velociraptor) and lived the rest of his life, safe from the police, growing flowers on the moon.
My brother, however, pointed out that because I had drawn pictures of Moonbirds (from a picture book I owned) in my book, I had committed plagiarism and would be arrested the day I turned eighteen.
Devastated, I gave up writing for several years. My career, and my life, was over.
Eventually, after figuring out that the same person who pretended to be one of the robots from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey was probably lying about this too, I returned to writing in my early teens, penning angtsy poem after angsty poem, Zelda and Harry Potter fanfic under pseudonyms for late 90’s message boards and writing friends into their favourite stories as a fun exercise and cheap birthday present. All the while working on my first real novel: the worlds worst fantasy adventure, Quest 4 Freedom.
Stored on a floppy disk, Quest 4 Freedom (Q4F as it was affectionatley known to me and no other human alive) was lost to time and technology. Thank God. As was almost all evidence of everything I wrote in high school, with the exception of one friend who recently revealed still has some of the birthday fanfic.
Which is pretty good incentive to make sure I never get famous.
In late high school, I turned to movies and started downloading screenplays to try to emulate them. When it came time to choose University preferences, I decided to pursue scriptwriting instead of prose writing, hoping that between the two dead-end starving artist options, I might have the slightest bit more luck finding a way to turn it into a job.
It turned out to be the right decision for me, and not just because I was one of the lucky few who did get some work out of it (and only after five years of poor student-hood). I fell in love with writing for the screen – especially television. And it doesn’t surprise me. I feel like good TV and novels have a great deal in common.
Other than a short story written many years ago (Roaches, published in a small anthology several years back and available under the short story tab on this site), I worked exclusively on short film scripts, feature scripts and TV shows (as script assistant, storyliner and eventually fully fledged writer) for seven years. I’ve won development funding from the state film body, I’ve had short films screened in film festivals here and abroad, and I’ve had my writers credit broadcast to several million TV viewers around the world.
I wanted to be a writer when I grew up (and a mermaid, but I didn’t really think that one through), and by the looks of it, I guess I am.
But I still have so much to learn. After seven years away, I’m back here re-learning everything I had to unlearn to be a good screenwriter. I’m reacquainting myself with my own style, with description, with inner dialogue. Remembering that now I can direct my characters, instead of just listing an emotion. I’d forgotten how fun learning and experimenting can be.
I’m writing my first novel (I guess technically my second, given I’ve now admitted Q4F existed). I doubt it’ll be bought by more than my circle of very supportive friends and family, it sure as hell won’t make me rich, but I’m loving every frustrating, difficult, exhilarating moment of it.
And most importantly, at twenty-six (which at times sounds so old to me, and at others naively young), I still want to be a writer when I grow up.
Which is pretty cool, I think.