After reading Susan Kaye Quinn’s post about her 15-year-old son’s writing and how she’s encouraged it and his forays into publishing, I started reflecting on how I would have turned out had my mother been a writer. And I’ve come to the only possible conclusion for anybody who knows me remotely well: I’d probably have ended up a mathematician.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But honestly? I can’t really imagine myself being a teen writer if my parents had been writers. I’ve never wanted to follow in their footsteps, and half the reason I started writing was defiance.
I’ve always loved stories and for that reason I think in the end my creativity would’ve won out and I’d have started writing novels, but when I first started aiming at full-length books during NaNoWriMo 2009 my parents said to me, “Don’t be ridiculous, you can’t write 50k in a month.” They said to me that I didn’t have time to write a novel, that I was young enough that I should just wait a few years… etc.
You know the drill. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times if you’re a writer or aspiring writer yourself. “You can’t do it.” People say it because they think it’s true, not realising that the act of telling you that will ensure you prove them wrong.
At least, if you’re anything like me. See, they said, “You can’t write 50k in a month,” and what I heard was, “I challenge you to write 50k in a month,” so I wrote it in fifteen days and never looked back. My writing was first and foremost about proving everyone wrong who thought I couldn’t do it. It was defiance, pure and simple. It always has been.
“You can’t do NaNoWriMo when you have mock GCSE exams the next fortnight.” That was one I heard a lot a couple of years back. “You can’t do this…” “You can’t do that…”
Always, I’ve taken that as a challenge.
I think if my mother (or my father) had been a writer, they wouldn’t have said that. They’d have encouraged me to write, proud that I was following in their footsteps. They’d have set me exercises and read my writing and critiqued it, the same way they listened to me practising my musical instruments and nagged me to work on my pieces and helped me with my technique.
(I should explain that my parents are both musicians, albeit not by profession.)
You know what happened with music? It was a hobby. It was just a hobby, and never anything more.
I reckon if I’d been brought up with writers I would’ve made a conscious decision not to become one until some future point when all that imagination and creativity came bursting out of me and I realised that I couldn’t live without it. But I was brought up by musicians instead, musicians who worked as careers advisors and civil servants, and my defiance led me to this point.
I’m not saying that they were unsupportive. The only reason mother person doesn’t tend to read my writing is because I know she wouldn’t like it – she doesn’t like books that are tense or don’t have a happy ending, and I’m notorious for tragedies. The only reason father person doesn’t is because I think he’d disapprove of my ideologies. Heh. They’ve still put up with me blathering on about the publishing industry, taking detailed notes of random cafes in Aberdeen so I can set scenes from my novel there, and editing my books on family holidays.
I’m just saying that I don’t think having a writer-parent would have encouraged me to write as a teen: I think it would have done the opposite, simply because of the kind of person I am.
I’m glad I found writing independently. When I was younger I used to wish someone in my family was high-up in the publishing biz and could give me insights and perhaps a leg up, but now that I’ve reached this wise old age I’ve realised that I want to do this on my own. I don’t want anyone to say, “Oh, but you’re so-and-so’s daughter, of course you’d grow up to be a writer.” I think no matter how talented someone is, if they’re from a family in the profession, people will always start out assuming that they got where they were because of their heritage. They might be proven wrong, but it’s an assumption people make. I’ve never wanted anybody to make that assumption about me in any aspect of my life.
Which is great, because nobody’s ever going to say that, because my parents aren’t writers or vloggers or dancers or aspiring modern-day lady knights. Hooray!
I don’t know if this post is even making sense. I’ll try and clarify before I vanish to watch Hannibal and work on my third draft of The Quiet Ones, which is how I plan to spend this evening.
I think for many people, having a parent who is a professional writer would be inspiring and would encourage them to follow it as a career path. They’d have a ready-made critique partner and editor, at least until their work became too long / prolific for the author-parent to cope with. So I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t bring their kids up to love the written word and to want to create stories.
However, for me personally, I’m too rebellious for that to have worked out, too defiant. I want to forge my own path and be my own person and I think I’d have done anything to avoid following in my parents’ footsteps had I been in that situation. This is all a fallacy, of course: I was inspired as a child by my sister’s love of writing and I wanted to be just like her. So maybe I’m wrong and alternate me would have been just the same. I still think she’d have reached adolescence and decided to become a nuclear scientist or something like that.
And I can’t ever know what would have happened because as Aslan said, one is never told what might have been. The Miriam who existed in a world with professional-author-parents instead of boring-day-job-musician-parents would not be this Miriam. She would have grown up differently and perhaps been an entirely different person because her family would be different and her circumstances likewise changed.
But I like thinking about it.
*reads post over* Oh my Hamlet, this makes even less sense than I thought it did. I’ll post it anyway, and then maybe somebody can let me know in the comments if they think I’m completely out of it or whether they get what I’m saying.
Do you have author-parents, and if so, did that inspire you to write or put you off the idea? This also goes for other professions: let me know whether you’re a rebel or a follower! And if you’re a rebel, did you ever change your mind about the idea and end up following their footsteps inadvertently anyway?
Since I don’t have author-parents to put me off the idea of being a teenage writer, I released a poetry collection last week. Just in case you missed it. I’m still trying to reach 18 sales, my goal, so if you have two quid to spare, Amazon awaits!
The name of this post is kind of a reference to Capaldi’s description of the Twelfth Doctor’s outfit as “100% rebel Time Lord”. Okay, it’s definitely a reference. Because that’s a great phrase.