I was asked this by a friend the other day over coffee. She was admiring her new copy of Gryphon’s Heir after I signed it (a task that doesn’t seem to get old, I modestly confess) and we were talking about the writing process (a topic that likewise does not get old). I should probably also admit we might have engendered strange looks from other patrons who witnessed us rapturously inhaling the new book smell. (Not at the same time, but still...)
What do you say in response to a question like that? “No” would appear to indicate a grievous lack of lifelong artistic commitment, while “yes” just seems a tad pretentious. Although “yes” is the honest answer. So... “yes,” I told her. I’m unflinchingly honest about affairs of the heart. Well, mostly.
But it’s true: I’ve always loved to write, to express myself with the written word, ever since the mystery of reading and writing was first unlocked for me. I still vividly remember running up the steps of our house at the tender age of six, clutching my first grade reading primer (with the catchy title of Tip --- about a dog and his humans), shouting excitedly to my mother, “I can read!” Yeah, it was kind of a momentous occasion. And my first foray into reading my work in public was in grade four. My teacher, Mrs. Mitchell, had given us a writing assignment with the single topic line of “I may be old, but look at me now.” I made it, as I recall, into a narrative purportedly written/spoken by John A. Macdonald’s diary (he was the first Prime Minister of Canada, for those of you who aren’t Canadian), and Mrs. Mitchell was apparently impressed enough with it to have me read it aloud as part of the entertainment segment of the weekly school assembly. I don’t recall being particularly nervous doing it, either. I guess, even at that age, I was quite okay with sharing my words to anyone who would listen. I may have been a wee bit precocious. Well... maybe more than a little.
In junior high, I started writing quite a lot. It was mostly science fiction when my teachers would allow it, because that was mostly what I was reading --- one of my earliest purchases, a copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars, remains in my collection, rather battered, binding totally gone, still displaying its then-princely price of 95 cents with the solemn caveat slightly higher in Canada. (With apologies to devotees of Harper Lee, Jem and Scout and Atticus are a little tame when one is reading about intergalactic exploits.) I even created a series of stories about a transportation hub named Goddard City. Located on Earth, it was a combined airport/seaport/spaceport/monorail station, so all kinds of people and situations could, and did, occur. I wrote several stories using Goddard City as either the background or as a primary locale, and I think they were mostly well received by my teachers and fellow students. Although... I don’t know. I was aware I had a certain... reputation. (I was going to say cachet, but reputation is probably closer to the mark.) Frederik Pohl says, in his marvelous memoir The Way the Future Was, that science fiction writers were all toads as children. I wasn’t exactly a toad... but, well... toad-dom is kind of a subjective pejorative, isn’t it? All right, maybe I was kind of a toad. Glasses, too smart for the Neanderthals who seemed to make up a large proportion of classes, no good at sports, tall and gangly and fairly uncoordinated. Sigh. Yeah, okay. I was a toad. And my small circle of friends were toads, too. Ribbit... ribbit...
But I wrote. Wrote fiction. And journaled, too. Still have a good deal of the fiction... and the journals, too, although I don’t look at them too often, because I read these journals now and I ask myself just who was the angst-ridden teenager writing such loads of unadulterated, melodramatic crap? You see, I’d discovered girls, too, although they hadn’t discovered me. I worshipped one girl in particular from afar (mainly because she was blissfully unaware I even existed, except maybe as the nerdy kid on the fringes of her classes) from grade four until grade ten, when we went off to different high schools. Anyway, she started figuring in my stories. You know, I look back now and think, boy, my childhood was just a series of clichés. Which is, I think, on one level, a really good rebuttal to all those writing gurus out there who decry the use of clichés. Yeah, I know clichés are tired and worn and uncreative and all that, but dammit, life seems to be frequently composed of clichés, doesn’t it? That’s why they often work even as we roll our eyes at them. Not that I’m advocating using them all the time in fiction, you understand, he added hastily. So, yeah, I wrote.
And then... and then... I discovered...
Gosh, I have to go now. My wife’s calling me for dinner. No, really, can’t play anymore, have to go home. Rachael, my social media guru, told me my blog posts need to be shorter, not longer, and this one’s already running above 900 words, and I still have more hoary recollections/sordid confessions to take out of the crypt and dust off, so... if you’ve travelled with me this far, maybe you’ll come back next week? Same bat time, same bat channel? Hmm. That’s not very Arrrinoran, is it?
All right, then: go you with the One.