Writing. That’s the word, isn’t it? That’s what it’s all about, right? This blog, in a microcosmic sense of the word, and to apply a more grandiose presumption, my life. But what, in a sense, is writing all about, at least, in the very personal context of my own perception? That’s what’s at the core of this whole thing.
Writing is storytelling. And storytelling is inextricably interwoven with language and song, forming the core threads of the rope that binds us, Generation Z, lazing our lives away in front of luminescent computer screens here in the 21st century, with our primeval ancestors who shivered in caves around smoky campfires and prayed to forgotten stone idols to give them the courage and strength and shaky faith in their flint spears to protect them from the fangs of the sabre-toothed tiger, or to provide the tribe with a mammoth kill to see them through the long, cold winter.
A writer is what I’ve wanted to be for as long as I can remember. Or, to be more precise, a storyteller, for this was a dream that germinated from seeds that were sowed long before I was able to read the letters of the Roman alphabet. It all started when I was three years old. I remember it as clearly as if it were but a few weeks ago, although the notion of the toddler I was then has long since disappeared into the faltering mists of time. My father took me one Saturday morning, as he often did, to the local mall a few blocks away from my house. The word “mall” is perhaps not quite the most accurate term to describe the single strip of around a dozen stores that constituted the Scottsville Shopping Centre in those days, although to my wide eyes it was a continent long, especially if one lost sight of those familiar fatherly knees and calves in a forest of giant-limbs that soared up beyond the sight of one’s toddler-vision. I know that I was three years old because this was before I started attending pre-primary school in 1986 (“kindergarten”, as it is known in other parts of the world). Anyway, to cut a long story short, my father, after he had payed his routine visits to the bank and the post office, decided to stop in with me at the local CNA (a stationery slash book slash toy store). And it was from there that he bought me my first ever Masters of the Universe action figure; a small but not insignificant gift, for it was to forever alter the course of my life.
I remember that my father picked out the toy for me, because although I was excited about getting a toy, the array of MOTU figurines lined up on the CNA shelves was rather bewildering and I had no urgent preference for any particular one. However, upon arriving home and tearing the little plastic being from its factory-sealed prison, I discovered a wonderful surprise concealed behind the figurine: a small comic. I eagerly began paging through the little comic and the gears of my sapling mind began whirring with a turbocharged freneticism that I had never before experienced. The pictures, the colours, the action; all of this appealed keenly to something deep inside of me. I demanded that my father read me the comic, which he did, delighted at the success of his purchase. I’d page through the comic again and again, and get my father to read it to me as often as he was willing to. Later, as I collected more MOTU comics, the imaginary world that had been born in my mind began to grow and develop. I began inventing my own MOTU characters, whom I would talk excitedly about with my best friend James at preschool (we bonded especially well over our shared MOTU obsession), and we would pretend to be these characters as we fought imaginary battles and raced through fantastic landscapes on the grassy and undulating playground of New England Pre-Primary. At home, all my parents needed to do to amuse me was to give me a stack of blank white paper and my box of Crayola 24-colour crayons, and I’d be lost in my own world for a few hours, drawing MOTU characters and other fantastic creatures that I’d create in my mind.
Later, when I learned to read in grade one, I discovered a new favorite place: the town library. I honestly could not get enough books, and I devoured them with as much ferocity as my newly-literate mind and still-rather-limited vocabulary could handle. There were the usual childhood reads; Dr Seuss classics, Richard Scarry’s books, The Berenstain Bears, Curious George and of course a number of classic Ladybird fairy tales and fables, but honestly, I was most interested in non-fiction back then, interestingly enough; the stories of characters in far away worlds or other times and places in human history took a back seat to the real life stories of wild animals. I became utterly obsessed with finding out as much as I could about wild animals, to the extent that when I had exhausted the supply of materials in the Children’s section of the library, I’d get my parents to check out books for me from the adult section. I’d set out my blank papers at home, and on the right hand paper, I’d copy out a full-sized picture of whichever animal I was documenting with my crayons, and on the left I’d compile, in my shaky six-year-old hand, a list of facts and figures about the animal. After I’d put together a good few pages, I’d staple them together (well, my mother would do that for me), and I’d draw a front and back cover for my book. I was self-publishing long before anyone had ever imagined the existence of Createspace or Lulu!
Later my interest shifted to history (I was big into knights and pirates, mostly), and then as my reading skill developed to the point where I was comfortably able to handle novels, I became an insatiable devourer of fiction. I entertained the notion of writing my own stories from an early age, and actually started a few out, with the intention of making them novels, but I never managed to finish them. In my teenage years, I put down my pen for a while and picked up drumsticks, as the raging, angst-ridden sounds of grunge, punk and alternative rock spoke to a newly-awakened part of my adolescent soul that screamed rebellion with an irresistible fire, but always, at the back of my mind, were the stories, the stories, the stories.
Now, after turning around in my head since those nostalgia-thick days of early childhood, these stories are finally taking form and shape in the physical world. I am adding my own string to the vast and unending thread of human history and culture; I am writing, and writing with a pace and fury and determination that I have never had the courage to harness before. Hopefully my writing, my stories, will form a thread that spans decades and lasts for the length of my own lifetime, and perhaps this addition to the rope of the aeon-old tradition of storytelling will extend to generations who are born after my own return to the dust from whence I came, although that is perhaps too lofty a height to aim for right now.
But, what is a dream if not an unreachable ideal? I will grasp as fully as I can at this one, and see what my fingertips eventually encircle.