Tuesday, 13 January 2015

An Unexpected, Seven Year Journey

Tuesday, 13 January 2015
Writing isn't something that I ever thought would come naturally to me. I loved books since before I could read, but I was good at maths and remembering facts - not drawing, painting or doing anything vaguely creative - and the idea of actually writing a book sounded as out-of-reach as becoming a movie star. Growing up, I would have never thought that I would feel lost without a notebook and pen in my bag and that I'd start to see stories wherever I looked.  

Some time around 12, I was sitting in a clothing store waiting for my mother and my gaze fell on a mirror. What if mirrors were a portal to another dimension? Very Carroll-esque, but my mind put a science-fiction spin on it and they had advanced technology, a red sky and special powers. That week at school, I scribbled out the story in my head, telling all (two) of my friends about it and starting every written sentence with "He" or "She".  

Three years, a failed blog, a move to Cape Town and a new school later, I still hadn't let go of that mirror idea. I found a girl in my class who also liked writing stories and we started swapping notebooks and sharing ideas. We ended up writing really bad stories together, each one writing a paragraph (or even a page) and letting the other continue where it left off. Through that, I learnt to write without an outline and picked up a habit of writing in first-person that I can't shake off. I didn't really have any other friends at my new school besides her, which made writing and stories all the more important to me. Then I stumbled across a website called Inkpop and it changed my writing journey.

Before Inkpop, writing was like wandering along the outskirts of a forest without any path or destination in mind and chasing after every plot bunny that I came across. I didn't know the names of any of the trees or plants, or how deep the forest went. I thought I could make my way to the publishing end of the forest without any trouble at all. Inkpop was the equivalent of someone handing me a forest guidebook and introduced me to some experienced travellers. I made some really amazing friends and I looked at writing with a fresh perspective. I appreciated the books I read more now that I could see character development and world-building at work. My writing improved dramatically because I was so much more conscious of the words I used and how I put together a story. I wrote every day, used my old mirror story to win at NaNoWriMo and finished the first draft of a novel. I never wanted to leave the forest.

The friends and experience I gained through inkpop dedicated me to the writer life. Even after inkpop was shut down. I still continued to write and found a new home on Wattpad, where I completed three more first-drafts of novels. Writing became such an important part of my life that I seriously considered abandoning my love of science in hopes of becoming a journalist when the time for university applications swung around and I felt like I had to choose between my two passions.

In the end, where I am now is happily studying physics and astrophysics while writing in my spare time. I’ve met other writers at university, and I’ve started to blog (both here at The Words We Carve and on my personal blog) to get my work out into the world. I hope to be both a published author and a successful scientist in the future. Maybe I’ll be a science-writer (yes, I’m looking at you National Geographic magazine). At the moment, I’m working on some short stories and trying to actually write a second draft of one of my first novels instead of just leaving it abandoned. Publishing a book is now looking more like a destination than some impossible dream, but I’ve only been on the journey there for seven years and there’s still far to go.


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