I think we were all born natural storytellers before sh*t got in the way—self-consciousness, self-doubt, disinterest, shame, adulthood. I was a gifted fibber as a kid, belying my mother’s insistence that I “couldn’t possibly look her right in the eyes and tell her a lie.” It was always a game, a challenge to get away with the most outrageous yarns I could possibly tell—oral, written—my imagination was on a serious steroid trip as a youngster. But then I grew up.
Given my one-time writing voracity, I got to thinking about why it’s taken me so long to tackle this novel—this wonderful and terrible story that I find myself drawn into, sometimes at the expense of being a normal person. I thought perhaps I was too busy being a jetsetter, ex-pat, actress (ooooh, in so many ways), corporate denizen, student, mother blah blah blah. All of those are valid, but there is something else. An incident that happened to me in childhood that put me off writing for years.
When I was about 13, I wrote mostly poetry, short stories and plays. Plays were my favourite—dialogue-driven, perfunctory, quick and dirty. Of course, at 13 I was also going through a *cough* tricky phase. First unrequited crushes, first discovery of the awesome sh*t your body can do, oh lordy, yes that stuff.
And that stuff, the really dirty sex stuff that only 13 year-old virgins can dream up came out into my plays. It was a joyous process (*double cough*) and some of it was quite disgusting I’m sure. Personally, I blame Judy Bloom.
One day, a schoolfriend and I went to see the Ray Martin show in Sydney. When I arrived home that evening, my mother was sitting in our downstairs rumpus room with her back to me, crying, my plays in her hand, torn and wept upon. I got into so much trouble for writing about what should have been a voyage of marvellous discovery. To this day, I still remember the way she was sitting and the look of total devastation on her face—the horror that her baby girl would right such lascivious content. And I remember my utter mortification.
For years after that, I was scared to write freely, and even now I’m still self-conscious about showing my unfinished writing to others—more specifically, my much-loved others.
And sorry, mum, this novel has a whole hell of dirtiness in it. Word.
Do you have an early writing story to share?