A Novel Idea

Early Promise

Posted on: October 28, 2010

This week has witnessed the six month mark in my first full time year of writing. To celebrate, I want to dispel some of the myths that cloud a beginning writer’s mind, starting with what I call the ‘Early Promise’ theory.

I recently attended a talk by a newly published author. She essentially PowerPointed her way through her writing journey, but I’ll try not to hold that against her. At one point in her presentation she flashed up a scan of a child’s handwriting. Turns out this was a story she wrote when she was little. She read it out to us.

It seemed unremarkable to me, but to her it signalled that she was always destined to be writer. That worried me in some way, but she moved on to her next slide and then finished. The audience clapped courteously. I took a welcome sip of tea (I’m a bit old school in that I think courtesy dictates you listen to the speaker not continue to hoe through the refreshments).

That was a few weeks ago now.

But I’d heard that claim before – the ‘look – even as a child I showed promise’.

In a much more entertaining use, a minor celebrity here in Australia used her six year old self’s ‘Pony Novel’, as a prop in a very funny charity speech earlier this year. Her point was more ‘look – I’ve always enjoyed this writing game’ rather than ‘Hemmingway eat your heart out’.

At a conference this year, I heard a writer for Young Adults read the first page of his self-declared ‘dreadful’ first novel. His point: ‘look how much I’ve improved’.

I too have fallen for the allure of the ‘Early Promise’ theory. My mother loves to crow on about how I was constructing full sentences before I was two and how I had a university graduate’s vocabulary at age 13.

I am however keenly aware that I was not a child prodigy. Clever: yes, Genius: no.  

Flashes of brilliance – sure. But if I’m honest, I spent my childhood BEING A CHILD.

I am grateful that my parents’ glowing view of their daughter meant that they saved artwork and stories. I read some of them recently. Some truly inspired ideas jumbled up with interesting spelling and at times a flagrant disregard for punctuation. Some things don’t change terribly…

Here’s a rather ordinary attempt at a poem for example:

A witch is black.

She is winter.

A forest.

She is lighting.

An old black piano

She is a tv horra.

Some moldly bread.

Clearly I meant ‘lightning’ rather than ‘lighting’ and so on. I’ve preserved original spelling as one must not mess with the author’s intentions…

I could have shown you much better examples that could be useful in a narrative of how I have always been a talented writer, but that would be disingenuous.

A spark, does not a bushfire make.

Persistence polishes a knack for something into shining talent. I’m of the view that it’s never too late to start something and become great at it.

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

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