Just this week we said goodbye to a really great bunch of students at my school as they went off on their study leave. They are wonderful young adults, hard workers, determined but filled with fun and excitement as they look forward to the rest of their lives. Despite their relief and joy at taking the final step which would see them leaving school behind forever, their farewells were tinged with sadness.
I remember when I left school.
I was fifteen. As I walked out of the main gate, everyone was throwing their ties into a makeshift bonfire. Yes, we used to wear ties back then. My mother had warned me not to do anything to my tie, as she had already sold mine to our next-door neighbour’s son who would be starting at my school in a few short weeks. I hated school. Every single second. I used to lie awake on Sunday nights, unable to sleep, in a cold sweat at the thought of spending yet another week in that most ghastly of places. From first light on Monday morning I would pray for it to be Friday evening.
What a waste.
All those years, tramping along the street on my journey to and from school, wishing to God I was anywhere else.
And now I’m a teacher.
About the only things that got me through were my friends and my writing. Even back then I’d write lots; scripts for plays, novels, a comedy magazine. I never had any real plans, no ambitions as such, but I always knew one day I’d be a best-selling author. I don’t know why. I have an in-built gift I believe for observation. I listen, learn, think. I store away a huge amount of information which I can return to whenever I’m dreaming up situations and characters. I’ve also experienced a fair bit, been through the mill, loved, lost far too much, and met the most amazing people.
Experience is what makes a writer, and the ability to put those experiences into words. All the books, boot-camps and seminars can’t teach you any of that. You look into your soul, deeper than deep, and you trawl up the hurt and the pain, the joy and the love. You cannot write about something you do not know. Yes. I’ve experienced. And my gift is to be able to relay it in the books I write.
I’ve learned by writing, and reading damned good books. I’ve listened to my editors, revisited author’s words to see if they did the same things. I’ve seen how the great writers break all the rules, and I’ve learned that intuition is the greatest weapon to bring to the keyboard. Believe in yourself, in what you want, in your words, your message.
Those students left my school with regrets probably, knowing they had left one of the most wonderful periods of their life.
I left school knowing the best periods were still to come.
I have received a number of mesmerising reviews for Varangian over the last few days, one which brought tears to my eyes. Here is the link, simply click on the image and then scroll down the new amazon page and you’ll see it:
Something like this makes everything worthwhile. The countless hours I have spent tapping away, and all those years I wasted wishing it to be Friday.
Because now I know the best period is almost here.