What do you want to be when you grow up? The question asked by adults to children. Interesting question really.
What do you want to BE? Not, what do you want to DO?
I was asked this a lot I seem to recall as a child. Each time I would mull it over, the possibilities seemed endless, the barriers to achievement, non-existent. I wanted to be a footballer, a lawyer, a golfer, a doctor, an actor, a film star, a journalist, a DJ, a sports commentator, a rugby player and who knows what else.
The reality was I had no idea and no true grasp of the fact that the day might actually come when a decision is needed on what you are to be, or in fact, to do.
The one thing I never, as a child, said I wanted to BE, was a writer. Which is strange, because it is the ONLY thing I’ve ever wanted to DO. I’ve written, told stories, invented fantasies and fictional scenarios for as long as I’ve been able to scrawl the alphabet into a primary school exercise book. In standard 2 (year 4 in modern class terms) I wrote a first person story about a footballer appearing in the FA Cup Final. I didn’t plan the story out, didn’t have an idea of the ending. I plunged in one afternoon after last break, describing the teams, the player, his feelings about the match. I gave details about the stadium, the weather, the fact that there was a player on the other side who was in some way my hero’s enemy. I forget the reason for the enmity but, as a regular subscriber to Roy of the Rovers my suspicion is that I may have lifted some marital crisis that I didn’t really understand from the pages of my favourite comic of the time.The story ran and ran and ran. Weeks went by and still I found myself writing, describing the action of this make-believe match. A goal, a corner, a throw-in, all intricately woven into the narrative as I lost myself in fantasy and felt compelled to write on so that I could find out what happened next. I genuinely didn’t know.My teacher at the time would joke, gently tease me.
“Have we reached half-time yet?”
“This must be the longest football match in history.”
Still, though, to his eternal credit, his encouragement never faltered. And the truth is, I didn’t want to reach the end. I was enjoying it too much. I was enjoying losing myself in the telling of the story, the world that I had created, the control I had over events. I was enjoying the very act of writing itself.
You see, I never wanted to BE a writer.
I just wanted to write.