Things I Used To Not Do


Teenage Me has a lot to answer for. I became deliberately set in my ways at high school, refused to wear brands, dressed almost exclusively in black (or dark blue) – I wasn’t a goth, just moody. I was incredibly snooty about the sort of music that was and was not acceptable. Placebo – get in. Steps – get to France. This was all very normal and acceptable behaviour for a teen, I was essentially sketching myself out as a person using bold, solid lines but of course all those mindsets hung around longer than they should have. It was years until I started allowing other colours in my wardrobe (although I still refuse to wear red) and start realising that the only person stopping me from buying certain clothes was myself. Well that’s not strictly true, my stereotype had become so clear cut so it was imprinted on those around me: “nothing, it’s nice, it’s just… not what you would normally go for”.

Similarly with music, I found myself discovering a real appreciation for electronic music, the sort of acts I would have bluntly refused to listen to as a youth – but somehow crossing the line from listening to this music streaming and buying the MP3 to put on my actual MP3 player was still a line I wasn’t allowed to cross. It wasn’t My Sort of Music. Listening to it was a guilty sin, purchasing well that just wouldn’t be on. After some time I grew up a little and realised that the blinding truth that all that was really important was that I enjoyed it.  I had become a prisoner of my own rules.  My MP3 collection has since doubled in size (also thanks to eMusic).

The biggest casualty of this mindset though has been my writing. At high school I loved two things (well in terms of subjects at school, let’s not get crazy here, my hormones were all over the place): creative writing in English class and computing. My family had recently purchased their first computer and I’d basically taken it over and found a real knack for programming (especially games). Meanwhile in English class I was also getting very good grades, and very good feelings of satisfaction, from my creative writings essays. I was very capable at English in general but with creative writing I really let loose, dreaming up fantastic worlds and strange situations – my final Higher Essay actually had to be chopped down from over 12 pages to 4 in order to be allowed. In my spare time I was doing two things – programming little games and writing little stories. The games I showed off to other people and let them play. The stories I hid away and kept secret, shutting the word processor down as soon as I heard anyone approach. This pattern continued – I went off to university to Computer Science and a hobby writing mobile phone games took off and earned me a bit of money. Late at night I would secretly write stories and not tell anyone. That wasn’t who I was. After uni I moved into web development (via eLearning) and quickly started earning a nice little reputation for myself. I kept having great ideas for novels, would write a few chapters and then delete the file. It was just a bit of silliness.

Why I ever wrote my writing off as being embarrassing and not relevant I’m still not sure but I doubt I’m alone in this scenario. Things came to a head last year when my wife and I started discussing starting a family for the first time. I got the Fear good and proper – too young to bring a child in the world, not having achieved anything of notable merit yet. A lot of daft ideas starting floating about in my head and again, I doubt I’m the only person to have gone through this stage. The whole family thing is still somewhere down the line but the whole situation gave me a proper kick up the backside. I’d been meandering along for too long – I was doing okay at my career but not great, I had hobbies but not that would ever earn me fame or recognition (beyond perhaps an amazingly high score on a computer game). So I did two things. The first was to completely revamp my career – I spent several, painful months getting myself a new, more demanding but more rewarding job. I also started writing. And this time I did it properly. I laid out plans, I bought notebooks, drew time lines and wrote out character biographies. Most importantly of all I told people that I was doing it. This was who I was now. Yes I was a geek and a programmer but I was also a writer. As with the clothes things, it did a bit provide a bit of a bump for people to get over: “oh right – but you’ve never really been into that before” but the result is that I’m now two thirds of the way through my first draft. Suddenly this amazing, thrilling novel has been built before me and I know it was with my bare hands. If nothing ever actually comes of it, if I never lucky enough to be published – I know that I have achieved something incredible and I have new skill that is both satisfying and ever evolving.

Title image courtesy vonlohmann

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Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 6:40 PM  Leave a Comment  
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