There was never a moment when I wanted to write. No quiet, still moment while reading a book when I realised I could do that. I never really considered it; I just did it. Always have.
I am eight years old, and writing, on Notepad, a book about a woman who gets a new job. It is called A New Life and I have just discovered that there is a clip art which exactly matches the description of the woman in my book. It must be fate.
I never finish that book. My favourite part of it is the thrill of the blank page, the cursor flashing on and off, on and off. I open the document, and look at it, and think of all the things I can write.
Where Magic is Possible follows A New Life. I am thirteen. I start Three By The Sea when I am sixteen. What A-levels should I do if I am going to do an English degree? English, of course… but what else?
‘Are you going to do an English degree?’ my dad says in surprise. And me and Mum are like: obviously.
‘Oh, yeah,’ I say. It isn’t a decision. Of course I am going to read the greats. I want to know what has come before this writing; who wrote the first novel? The first bildungsroman? It is obvious, this choice, for me, like the feeling of wanting to get to know your parents, your grandparents, to want to explore the town in which you live.
‘Well,’ Dad says. ‘Great.’
I take a creative writing module at university, obviously, when I am nineteen. It is run by a woman called Candy. I am still writing Three By The Sea, but I shelve it to write a short story about a woman who kills herself. At the end of the term, my piece gets read out to the whole class while I feel something both squirming with embarrassment and opening up inside me: I should write my novel. I haven’t written any more of it, but have started a blog, this blog, and am writing most days; vignettes of my university life. I develop a rather strange habit of getting home and hanging my wet-to-the-knee jeans on the radiator and writing in my room in pyjamas bottoms, every afternoon.
I am never writing anything I am supposed to be.
‘I have an internship with Glamour magazine over the summer,’ a fellow English undergraduate says to me when I am twenty.
Oh yes. I should be doing that. Journalism, or something. Shouldn’t I? I want to be a novelist.
I would look into those internships.
I don’t look into the internships. At the end of university, on results night, I go to the Gun Barrels pub in Birmingham. I am off to do law, the following autumn.
‘You still got that blog?’ An indie boy asks me. He is clutching a vodka and coke, the glass curled into his chest.
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘I like writing. As a hobby. I mean yeah – I want to write novels. On the side.’
But who would do that for their actual living? How would they do that? It seems like aspiring to win the lottery or to front a pop band. Yeah, I want to write novels. ‘Like everyone,’ I add.
It is the 1st June, 2017 and I am sitting with my iPhone in my hand, in my bed, even though that is contraband because it stops me reading fiction.
I’m not really thinking anything at all as I scroll mindlessly through twitter.
‘Alright for you,’ my boyfriend says, glancing at me. It’s late, and he should be sleeping, because he has work tomorrow.
I do not have work tomorrow, because it is my first part-time week. A lawyer (a whole other vocation I could write a post about) for three days a week and an author for the rest. My boyfriend falls asleep and it’s just me and the cat in the quiet of the night.
Here I am, thirty-two years old, and tomorrow, I will become a novelist. Being paid to write. That thing I always wanted to do, but never felt I could.
Here it is.