Bear with me while I do a bit of navel-gazing. Writers sometimes try to explain where their writing comes from and I’ve often been asked how or why I decided to become a writer. The short answer is, I didn’t. I fell into it. Then someone told me I was quite good at it – a powerful piece of flattery – so I just carried on. Now I just can’t stop. But, okay, where did the ‘quite good at it’ come from?
One theory that caught my eye recently is that fiction writers tend to be people who feel ill at ease in the real world. They are in it but don’t feel of it. I certainly recognise this in one of my grandchildren who is autistic. She struggles in places where children are supposed to thrive, such as the school playground, but is at her most comfortable sitting alone and writing a story. She was once suspected of deafness because she failed to write on the theme that had been agreed by the rest of the class, a kind of creative writing by committee project, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing. She simply preferred her own idea for a story.
It was never my dream to be a writer. It was my dream to be a dancer, a career for which I was too short, fat and asthmatic. Instead of ballet lessons, my parents gave me a portable radio. ‘Portable’ in the 1950s meant something the size of a Ryanair-approved carry-on with a battery that weighed a ton. That radio was my second best friend, runner-up only to my library ticket. So that was my childhood: reading books and listening to the radio. Did that draw me towards words while everyone else was out roller skating, or was the observing and writing tendency already hardwired in me, the chubby little wheezer no-one wanted on their sports day team?
Derned if I know. And so ends today’s session on the couch.