I had been on a very long journey to work out what I was supposed to be doing with my life and ultimately ended up, right back at the start.
I still relive the emotions of experiencing the penny dropping. It dropped like a great clanger, as subtle as a brick in the end, almost landing on my foot in protest of having taken so long to get there. I had found what I’d been searching for my whole life, but still had to wait to test my theory. I had been on a very long journey, to work out what I was supposed to be doing with my life and ultimately ended up, right back at the start. English, this was my answer. If only you could have seen my face when I realised that my future lay in writing. Everyone else could see it. It was glaringly obvious to them. My friends and colleagues had always offered great praise for my writing, which when I thought about it, they had done my whole career. I’d been writing all my life, I’d just written in a business sense rather than creatively. I had so many prompts throughout my life, but had failed to realise the common thread. So there I was, right back at the A-Level English stand, putting my name down for a subject I wasn’t even all that bothered about taking. It was suddenly obvious to me too. What a fool I was, if only … If only I had embraced the subject right back at the start, instead of turning away from it. What a lot of wasted time, but I’m not a negative person. I sit here writing this blog and know deep down that writing came into my life at just the right time. I still believe that everything happens for a reason and when it’s supposed to. All the dots simply have to line up.
Having to wait for the right time to try writing again, almost drove me insane. The burst of excitement within me, became all the more concentrated for waiting, but things just kept getting in the way. It finally found its opportunity one bright, sunny August day in 2010. Everything fell into place that day, my son was out playing football and my daughter was hitting the books for her GCSE exams, so I borrowed her laptop and headed down the garden. I can still feel the butterflies today. I was so nervous. It was like holding a winning lottery ticket on a windy day. One false move and the whole thing could be a disaster, but I opened a word document and began typing anyway.
When I think back to that moment, which seems an age ago now, I think of how strong the urge to write was. To this day, I still don’t have an explanation for what made me wake up feeling so strongly that I should, but I’m really glad I did. I have always followed one firmly rooted belief, that is, “Go with your gut instinct.” Whatever that inner voice is telling you to do, can’t be that bad. I know when I ignore its advice, things always end up going badly, like the voice that tells you to clean your house, when you don’t have time. So you ignore it and surprise visitors turn up. That kind of thing.
When I took my daughter’s computer, I barely even knew how to switch it on, let alone how to use it. I’d never used a laptop before and remembered messing about with it at first. It wasn’t only because I didn’t know how to use it though, it was also about postponing the moment, because suddenly it had all become very real. The moment had arrived, the test was afoot, the moment I had waited for my whole life, but what if I was rubbish? What if after all the searching, I couldn’t write? That would mean only one thing, I had no discernable talent. I would have to settle down to the mundane and get on with it, because my search would have been in vain. So I fiddled with it until everything was set-up and I had no more excuses, so I sat there watching the ‘I’ bar flash at me.
The popular thought occurred to me, ‘you should stick to what you know’ and apply that to your writing. I thought about what I wanted to write, but nothing came like the first time I attempted. So I scratch my head and thought, “Just write an opening scene.” I looked around me at the blazing August sunshine and listened to the sounds around me then suddenly a single sound cut through the rest. I heard a police car speeding up the bypass in the bottom of the valley and was instantly transported back to a summer when I was a child. I hit the keys and wrote the opening to chapter 1 of Hidden.
I read it back to myself and was surprised to find that it didn’t sound too bad. I had written it so quickly, once I started, the words just flew across the page. I felt an air of relief wash over me. I knew I’d found it and I wasn’t rubbish. That strong urge had finally put me on the right path. The path I should have been on from the start.
My next quandary was what to write next. I had set a lovely scene, but here was the test was, what now? I didn’t have a story. I needed to see if I could create a story out of what I had, which wasn’t very much, in term of writing a book. So I went back to the head scratching again. I decided that I needed characters. I needed to make it easy for myself, so I stuck to what I knew. I’ve always worked with children, so I created two characters, Bronte and Riley. The only thing I knew in the beginning was that I wanted them to be best friends. In my head, I always imagined myself writing a horror story, because that had always been my favourite genre, but horror didn’t feel right, so I kept writing to see what came. I knew that I needed a piece of action and a hook by the end of the first chapter, so after putting my writing down and making tea, I came back to it and had the bones of a storyline, involving a dare.
That day, I wrote the first chapter of Hidden, which has remained mostly unchanged. I’ve never looked back since. Today, I have a much different story to the one I imagined writing. I’m writing in a completely different genre to what I thought I would be, but as I sat in my garden writing, I fell in love with my characters and wanted to see where they would take me. Today, three and a half years down the line, I am in the process of publishing that very same book. I have two more books at various stages of completion and already know that there will be at least another two books in the saga.
Bronte and Riley changed my life in a way I couldn’t ever imagine. I cannot begin to wonder where they will take me, but I know one thing for sure, I can’t wait for the adventure. So I buckle-up and wait for the ride of my life, as I continued on their journey through The Hidden Saga.
Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga
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