There are so many words in my head at the moment, so many of them, about so many things, seeping out of the cracks in my skin and drifting off into the mild February air. It’s impossible to keep them inside but I can’t share them with you perhaps not for a long time — or even ever. But telling you that they are there is enough for now.
A the moment, the emotions behind them need to cool a little and take on more clarity. Words have such power, it is unwise to release them the moment they are born. There is so much that I want to say but instead I am going to set aside the weight of all that must go unspoken and finish the tale of what happened to January.
Let’s pick up where we left off.
There I was, sitting at my desk, page open in front of me, wondering which was to go. Was I to sign up to the crazy, potentially waste-of-time program and indulge a somewhat solitary, not terribly useful hobby or should I put down my pen, grow up like I ought, and stop wasting my potential on such frivolous things?
* * *
Honestly, it felt like a pretty big decision. To say that yes, I should be serious about my writing, would be to defy the sensible (but financially motivated) advice of my school teachers and (in their eyes) to indulge the childish fantasy. Smart kids do well-paid jobs, visible jobs that are easy to see and impressive to boast about. To take writing seriously would be to do the same as the gaming fanatic or the aspiring (but talentless) actor, still living in their parents’ attic: I would be refusing to grow up and just get on with the harsh realities of life.
But to say no, deep down I felt would mean laying down my pen and leaving it there; shutting my manuscript in a drawer where it couldn’t tempt me; starting to explore the options of pursuing a legitimate career. I couldn’t write at all anymore, not even to blog, because cold turkey would be the only solution to rid the stories from my bones. There is no other way.
But I would, at last, have grown up.
It’s so hard to know what should follow that sentence.
* * *
As I have said before, I don’t like to say much about my personal life. But I will tell you this:
I often struggle with curiosity.
When someone tells me something, my immediate reaction is to ask why. Or to ask what would happen if. . . How does that relate to. . .
My entire mind is one giant, insatiable dot-to-dot, except it looks more like a knotted web than a chronological drawing. That’s why I was never much good at school, too curious about everything and how it all fits together (or doesn’t).
It’s something I struggle with more and more as I grow older because I can’t shake it, even though everyone else seems able to. It won’t go away and sometimes it comes out at the most awkward opportunity and curls its tail round its paws and pokes at the conversation.
When curiosity wins and gets loose, I feel awkward and childish (most of the time) because it’s just such a childish trait. It’s a dangerous gateway drug into the world of stories, the thing that gets you hooked and keeps you hooked until reading is no longer enough and you find yourself sitting at your desk late at night with a pen in your hand and a blank notebook open in front of you, daring you to fill it.
The reason I felt so agonised over the question whether I should be serious about writing was because it seems so childish and if you’ve read some of the nonsense that leaks out of my pen (Nessie hoaxes aside) you would, most likely, agree.
But I had to make a decision: go cold turkey and grow up or go at it with all I’ve got.
In the end, it was C. S. Lewis of all people who weighed in in a most helpful manner, saying,
Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.
His words were a strange kind of comfort, but not because they gave me hope that one day I would return. Rather, I realised that there was no need ever to return to my love for writing. So many years are wasted by people thinking they are to old, only to realise down the line how untrue this is.
There is too much to be done to waste decades being a snob about fairy tales; there are too many words fighting for their turn, too many stories that cannot wait (they are such impatient creatures), too much truth waiting to be told. We will never not be old enough for fairy tales.
Growing up is not so much about the laudable career and the comfortable paycheck, it’s about using what you’ve been given to glorify God, even if it goes against the advice that the world gives, even if it doesn’t pay very well and isn’t much to boast about.
To some, God gives a scientific mind for great discoveries; to some he gives incredible oratory abilities to preach his word or to lead nations; to some he gives practical skills for creating beautiful and useful things. To me, he gave a pen and sat me in a quiet corner to get on with it.
And so, we pick up, we shake it off, and we continue ever on.