I was six when I tried scribbling my first (and only) film script. It was about a soccer match that was somehow going to decide the fate of the planet, except it would be a comedy. A divine comedy! There’d be a team of Hells Angels on one side.
I can’t remember if I wrote more than four or five pages, but I do remember that the idea was inspired by three things:
- a fleeting interest in soccer,
- the screening of several Ealing Studios’ comedies on Sunday afternoon TV, which I thought were pretty funny,
- a maroon, hard-cover notebook, which someone had given me for Christmas, and how those two hundred beautiful pages of clean, lined paper were begging for something special to be written in them.
But this early and incomplete creative effort, I suspect, is similar to something many of us do in childhood. We write plays, put on puppet shows for parents and uncles and aunties, enact roles through games, and tell one another stories as we drift towards sleep. There’s nothing unusual in this. So what is it, beyond this, that fires in us a desire to spend a lifetime crafting words, creating tales, aiming to capture an audience’s attention?
Is it because someone whose opinion we cherish praises an early effort? Does this sow some seed in our psyche to try and try again, in crave of praise and a readership? Or is it the absence of this that compels us to write and write again, craving any reaction whatsoever? And if we dismiss the attention-seeking argument, is it because we are genetically wired to tell stories and explore truths, in the same way that some are wired to take risks or to stretch their physical ability to run faster, jump higher, or to protect or to nurture others?
Nature or nurture, or a little bit of both?
If, when I was eight, I hadn’t won a parcel of fishing gear for my entry in a short story competition, would my interest for writing have waned in the same way my interest in soccer and fishing waned? After all, I wasn’t that hooked on literature at this age (it more or less amounted to reading Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner seven times, perhaps on the basis that depth of reading might equate with breadth of reading). And it didn’t trouble me that I won a book token for an Historical Society’s short story competition, with a piece about the Danes battling it out with the Angles, simply because mine was the only entry. Even this wasn’t enough to make me question where I was heading with an interest, which few other people seemed to share, in scribbling down stories.
What I’m saying, I suppose, is that there are landmarks in any journey we take. There are points at which we stop or are stopped, and obstacles we overleap. They begin to define us and our passions, as well as our pet-hates. Sometimes we carry on regardless, not really knowing why we need to carry on or how we started in the first place. All the same, it’s a useful thing to know, I think, why we chase the dreams we do, and what it is we hope to achieve in fulfilling them.