The first threads

Apr 14, 2010 | Personal

I think every author must remember their first stories. The first published one, the first written one, the first completed one. You think back on them sometimes, even when you know they were complete rubbish and your current material is infinitely better. It’s a tiny thing, but it’s also a place you point to where you can say “This is where I began. This is where I made the choice. This is where I became a writer.”

Those threads are probably frayed and ragged, utterly unworthy of attention in any normal frame of reference, but to you they are precious.

I can remember my first story vividly. As a child, I recall myself and my sister telling each other stories late at night – the pretend games of narrative, using dolls or pictures or whatever we had lying around. It was so natural to me. It was instinctive taleweaving, telling only for the joy of it, just like every other kid.

I remember our old computer. It was a huge, clunky (by today’s standards) white box, with a clacky keyboard and a basic, DOS command line interface. A Commodore 286, I think; to this day, I wonder if my parents only got it for the novelty of it, because neither of them are particularly technically inclined. But on this pitiful, ancient machine – unworthy of attention in any normal frame of reference, even then – I made something magical.

I was twelve years old, and I started tapping out a story about the snakes returning to Ireland.

It’s said that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, way back in yonder days. In reality, it’s probably something to do with ecology and whatnot, which is not nearly so interesting. But the idea of it was fascinating to me, and I began to dream up images of rivers of scaly bodies slipping away into the sea, with St. Patrick standing sternly behind them with a grim expression. And I thought of snakes, in the modern day, talking amongst themselves about a lost land to the west and north – a sanctuary, Atlantis even – that was little more than legend and rumour.

Ah, it was so little. I barely wrote a few pages before giving up. And it was terrible, believe me – a twelve year old may write well for their age, but that doesn’t make their stuff good. It was a story I wouldn’t give the time of day to, now, and it was my whole heart and soul made real back then. That was the first time I tried to catch a dream and forge it into a story. Those were the first threads.

Be they ever so humble, I sure every writer remembers them.