My son started ‘Big School’ a few weeks ago.
For those of you unacquainted with the education system in the UK, what we do to our youngest members of society is this.
The wee ones start at primary school at about three or four years old, where they find softly spoken teachers, brightly coloured crayons and sandpits. They spend a few years making handprint paintings and musical instruments out of yoghurt pots and dried peas – and probably glitter. There’s a lot of glitter at primary school.
They gradually work their way up the school, learning a bit more, keeping just one teacher a year who takes them for all subjects, staying in the same classroom, so everything is warm and safe and familiar. My son’s old school (along with many primary schools here) was an old Victorian building with Gothic overtones (it had a turret and crenellations, for goodness sake!). Cosy.
Physical education seems to involve country dancing and balancing bean bags on your head and sport’s day wasn’t particularly competitive, but about ‘sharing’ and ‘supporting’ each other to do well.
They had Nativity plays – tinsel haloes, kids stuck all over with Pritt stick and cotton wool pretending to be sheep, silver paper stars, the lot.
Most rooms had a quiet corner with cushions and a comfy seat where kids could read or just think. Idyllic.
Now he’s at secondary school.
He’s gone from being one of the oldest in a population of around 400 to the youngest in a population of over 1,200. The school resembles the flagship office for a multinational financier – all strip lighting and floor to ceiling windows. Pupils have to move to a new class and new teacher with each lesson (carrying their own body weight in books, pens, calculators each time) in a baffling maze of stairs and corridors that a well-trained Griever* would find confusing.
My son has already experienced some low level bullying and had something stolen from him.
Tough though it is and though he’s had a few rocky moments, he says he loves the place. He loves his teachers, he loves most of his subjects (except drama – he doesn’t like pretending to be a tree, apparently) and he loves being more independent.
What the chuff has this got to do with writing, I hear you cry? Well, I’ll tell you.
You may be reading this as a new writer, all dewy fresh behind the ears with that just-out-of-the-packet smell. You might have spent years dreaming of writing, but were just too busy with work and family and macramé and the private lives of the Kardashians to attempt it. But now you’re ready. You’re dipping your raw, pink toe into the sea of scribbling and wondering how cold the water is.
On the other hand, you may be a more experienced writer.
You may have been blogging for years, reaching out across the ephemeral fingers of the virtual world to build a fan base and meet your people. You’ve made a comfortable niche for yourself. You may have written a tranche of short stories and you may have had some success too, had some published, maybe won a comp or several. But there’s something niggling at you – a bigger dream you’re yearning for, a longer form of self-expression. But you’re nervous. How will you transfer your short story skills to a novel – how do you plot, create believable, rounded characters. How do you write so many damn words?
Fear not, dear souls. If the anxiety inside you is building as you contemplate your new writing goal, if your fear of failure and rejection is holding you back –
think of my son and step bravely forward.
Like him, you’ll find the going a challenge – don’t fool yourself it’ll all be easy, because it won’t. You’ll have some stresses, some worries, some moments where you don’t think you’ll make it. And you may even get something nicked along the way.
But arm yourself well. Read advice, read books – lots. Watch TV and films (within reason – a twenty four hour marathon of Storage Hunters does not count as research for anything). Go places, meet people.
Then sit your bum on a chair and write and keep writing. Don’t let doubt or fear of the unknown stop you from doing something you really want to do and if that’s writing a blog post, a short story or novel, just throw yourself in and do it. And do some more and some more.
And eventually, you won’t be the newest kid on the block, you’ll be an old hand and you’ll have created something amazing that’s yours.
And you’ll love it.
*A animal / machine hybrid killer from the The Maze Runner. Very good at negotiating mazes!