Can you remember the spark? The
magic moment? The first instant when you knew beyond all reasonable doubt
that you were put on this earth to be a writer?
When did that happen to you?
Where did it happen? How?
Was there someone who saw it in
you and helped you, encouraged you, drew the spark from deep inside you and
fanned it to a flame?
Who was that?
It was late September 1970. I
was thirteen years and two hundred and forty eight days old. Iíd just worked
that out on the inside back cover of my English Grammar text book.
Winker Watson strolled up and
down the aisles between our desks, handing back homework essays, announcing
grades, picking boys at random, engaging them with questions in an effort to
keep our undivided attention on him rather than on the panoramic views from
our wall-to-wall fourth floor classroom windows.
A bright autumn morning in
Wallasey, on the Wirral Peninsular, in the north west of England. To the
north of us flowed the busy brown River Mersey, underlining a dark and
glinting Liverpool skyline. Over our right shoulders in the distance, beyond
a wide green spread of mossland, stood the huge loading cranes of Birkenhead
docks, giant stooping sillhouettes that never failed to remind me of The War
of the Worlds. On our left, out of sight behind hills of red brick housing,
was the River Dee and the Welsh mountains. Before us lay rough open fields
and a strip of sand dunes and the chopping Irish Sea.
I gazed out to the sharp horizon.
Thatís where I wanted to be. Thatís where I belonged. I'd scribbled this
homework in record time earlier in the week, rushing to get out on the water
one last time before winter set in. On Saturday I would haul my boat out
...suddenly I was back in the
silent classroom and Winker was standing at the front, holding attention,
holding the one remaining essay, holding my gaze.
He read it out loud.
Boys nudged one another and
grinned. Bridger's in the brown and sticky, hee hee hee.
Yeah. Thanks, mates.
I tried not to blush or let my
brave stare waver. Whatever happened, I knew I had to face this down. All I
needed to do was deny everything. I mustnít concede that Iíd dashed this
essay off in half an hour, at the very most, rather than spending the
required two hours of weekly homework time allocated for English Language. I
could bluff it through with a display of innocent stupidity. Címon, I could
Winker finished reading the
evidence. Our eyes met briefly and I steeled myself.
Weirdly, though, he didnít throw
my homework back in disgust. And the expected interrogation never came.
Instead, he started picking the essay to pieces and explaining how I'd
achieved this effect, these emotions, this contrast, that balanceÖ and I
realised he liked the thing. He liked it! It was good!
The classroom was very quiet.
He handed my essay back and gave
a name to the light that was dawning on my mental horizon.
"You are a writer."
Thatís when I knew. I didnít
know what kind of writer I would become or where my work would take me. I
had no idea what sort of apprenticeship I would serve or if I would ever be
successful. I didnít even know what success meant, right there and then.
But right there and then I
knew in my marrow that I was a writer, already, simply by virtue of being
born. Itís who and what I was put on this earth to be.
You too. You are a writer. You
are, you know, or you wouldnít be reading this now. It doesnít matter if, at
this stage in your career, you are published or unpublished, rewarded or
unrewarded, appreciated or unappreciated. Those things will come or they
wonít come. Theyíre important. Of course they are. But theyíre not who you
You are a writer. You just
are. Thatís your spark!