Still Lost In My Own Little World

Me, aged twelve – thinking about my story at school, staring out of the window, barely listening to the teacher, barely aware of the world around me, filling my rough book with ideas and pieces of dialogue because my characters think the school day is a perfectly appropriate time to start talking to me. Rushing home, backpack bouncing against my shoulders, breathlessly running through the door to complete my chores before the rest of the day is mine. Me, in my room, music on first. Guns ‘N’ Roses at that age, thumping out from my hi-fi music system on the floor. My desk, an old coffee table, me on my knees, hunched over reams of scruffy A4 lined notepaper. A whole folder of one boy’s story, one boy’s scary world which would over time morph into an entire universe of my making.

Me, feeling excited to the point of explosion. Fixating entirely and completely on the story growing before my eyes under the frantic movement of my powerful biro. Pouring out the ideas and scenes that have bombarded me all day at school. Not a part of me is wondering what else I might have missed, from teachers, friends or society itself. Because I am removed and detached from all of that. That’s the background, the white noise, the distraction and this – this is real.

There were always other stories too, a constant stream of words and action. Sometimes I would sit at the breakfast bar in the kitchen with an old transistor radio to keep me company. I’d be lost in there, utterly gone. A ghost in this world but the puppet master of my own. I’d come back when I had to, with drowsy reluctance. What was there for me in this world? Terrible school, awful people, tedious chores and pointless homework. My parents rowing, doors slamming, people leaving, accusations flying, money draining away. I didn’t want any of that. I did not, in the words of Tom Waits, wanna grow up.

So, I didn’t. I broke free. I bucked the trend. Broke the rules. Did what all of them told me not to. I became a writer. And not much has changed. I have a foot in each world but most of my thoughts and dreams happen in my own one. As a child people used to say I was in my own little world and I guess they thought that one day I would grow out of it. Nah. I became a writer.

And it’s just the same now, as I hurtle back from the dreaded school run, a day off stretching ahead of me, dogs to walk, ideas to hold onto. I get to the laptop, get to my stories, to my own little world as fast I can. The world is bigger now – it’s a universe! I have sixteen published titles and eleven of those occur in the same universe. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side was my obsession as a child and a teenager. That story, those characters guided me through my youth and gave me a much needed escape route from reality. No wonder they mean so much to me. No wonder I am reluctant to let go. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, the Holds End trilogy, The Mess of Me, Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature and Bird People and Other Stories have all grown out of my obsessive writing as a twelve year old. I’d love to go back and tell her! And at the moment, the same universe continues to expand with three more books I am working on side by side. Again, I think twelve year old me would be amazed!

At the moment I am working on the fourth draft of At Night We Played In The Road which is a spin-off book from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. Two characters are introduced in book five of the series and I loved them so much I decided to give them their own book. A while back I penned a start to a sequel to The Mess Of Me, which was my debut novel in 2013. I finally finished it recently and as both these new books happen in The Boy With The Thorn In His Side universe, writing them inevitably led me to one final story. A crossover story, which I am currently on the second draft of. This book, The Dark Finds You, brings Danny from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, Leon from The Mess Of Me, Bill from the Holds End trilogy and Elliot from Elliot Pies Guide To Human Nature together in one story about a missing boy. It happened naturally and inevitably, I feel, because storylines that run through all those books have tangled my characters up together in the same dark criminal world where youngsters are lured into running drugs for older, criminal gangs and all of this comes to a head in the crossover book. It really finishes off Danny’s story too – from the boy I created aged twelve, to the man he is now – this last story ties everything up with no loose ends left hanging. Once these next three books are released, it really will be the end for that universe.

I will be both happy and sad but other worlds are calling! Plus, I don’t want to drag it out forever! This last book really will tie everything up perfectly and it’s been a very satisfying one to write. I think it is the fastest and easiest book I’ve ever written. It took just six weeks to complete the first draft and it just sort of wrote itself!

So, I’d like to pay homage to my obsessive twelve year old self. Thank goodness you didn’t give up. That goodness that drive to write was there every single day, upon opening your eyes! You didn’t know then what it would lead to but you did know you were addicted!

And I’m extremely happy and grateful to still be lost inside that world of my own making. It’s the best place to be.

Writing Is An Addiction For Which There Is No Cure

And why would you want one anyway?

But it is this for me; an addiction, an affliction, a certain kind of mental state. Whether you are born with it, or cultivate it, or whether it just gets its claws into you one day out of the blue, the end result is the same.

Once it has you, it has you.

It’s an assault on your mind, an invasion of your inner life, your privacy. A constant influx of voices, people and ideas. You can’t shut it off or drown it out. Everywhere you go you see something or someone to write about.

Like the great man Bob Dylan once said ‘I’ve got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane.’

Never a truer word spoken!

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So, I go out for a walk, I escape the laptop and the notebook, and the home, and this is an instant mistake. Because if I go somewhere quieter, the ideas and the voices just take advantage, and use this as an opportunity for a full scale invasion.

My defences are always too low. I am weak and helpless.

I can’t fight back, I can’t fight them off. In the end I always give in and roll over and let them come. ¬†And they trample each other, they push and elbow their way in. And they never close the damn door behind them.

There is no security here.

I think this constant assault is an exciting privilege, and an exhausting one. Not to mention frustrating, causing panic, because life is only as long as it is, which is short. Very short. And there will never be enough days or hours or minutes to satisfy the constant invasion. Sometimes I want to put up a Closed sign. Be back later.

Anyway, I surrender. I give up. I am open and fully addicted. I am constantly thinking about writing, about the next chance I get to write, and how in many ways, I am always writing. If not with pen, then into my phone, notes for later, or in notebooks, or on scraps of paper, or just in my head. Words. So many words. Not always in the right order, but impatient and scrambling, sometimes hesitant and self-conscious, sometimes awesome and life affirming!

I couldn’t give it up if I tried. I can’t go cold turkey for even one day. I give myself Saturday’s off, but not really. More often than not I sneak onto the laptop anyway, even for a few minutes, or I’m writing in my notebook, jotting down ideas, adding dialogue to conversations, and if not, then it’s all in my head, being laid down bit by bit.

I wouldn’t exist without it. I couldn’t. It’s my oxygen. I need a little fix every day or I don’t feel like me.

Writing has helped me through so many stages of my life. Diaries, poems, songs, stories, novels, blogs, reviews. So many ways to write! So many opportunities to share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas, to offload your outrage and despair, or to channel aggression into something fictional. I find it so exciting, so exhilarating on a daily basis, like a mini adventure every day, not knowing where it will go or what will happen or who will be born or who will die!

Writing is an addiction for me and I wouldn’t have it any way.