“These days my stories are read all around the world. I’ve written lots of books and won many awards, but back when I was a boy I wondered if I could write at all. Once, when I was maybe nine, I happily told a neighbour that I wanted to be a writer. He frowned and shook his head and leaned over me. “A writer, eh?” he said. “So you’ve got a good imagination, have you? And you’re really creative, are you?” I flinched. The words were suddenly so scary. What did it mean to be creative, to be imaginative? What did it feel like? I didn’t really have a clue. Maybe I was stupid, maybe I had no imagination at all.
And he said another – just as scary – thing. “And you? You’re just an ordinary kid from an ordinary place. What on earth do you think you’re going to write about?”
It was very troubling. I’d always liked writing – scribbling words on paper, shaping them into little tales, seeing them come to life on the page and in my mind. I wrote poems and bits of songs. But I started to think that the imagination was something possessed only by special people, not by me. Maybe good stories could be written only by people in very special places, people not like me. Maybe I was deluded in my enjoyment of writing. Maybe I should just give up.
I was wrong, of course. Every single one of us, no matter who we are or where we’re from, has a powerful imagination. To be human is to be creative. The human mind is one of the most astonishing things in the known universe and each of us has one. The mind is rich and abundant. It is a store of dreams, tales, images, memories, emotions, sensations. Sometimes it feels very plain and ordinary, sometimes deeply mysterious. Each one of us has a fund of stories just waiting to be told.
We’ve been telling each other stories and singing each other songs and acting out dramas for each other since the start of human time. We’ll be doing it until the end. We make up silly tales and scary tales and tear-jerking tales and horrific tales. Our words can make each other shiver and giggle and gasp and sigh. When we write, we’re with all the storytellers who’ve gone before and all who are still to come. We feel closer to the writers of books that we love. We join with people who love using words to tell jokes, to gossip, to sing.
When I was young, I didn’t stop, despite my doubts. I kept on writing because I loved – and love – the act of writing. I couldn’t stop. Yes, we all know that writing can be difficult, but it’s also a wonderful and engrossing kind of play. We don’t really write to feel clever or to be admired or to win awards. We write to stretch our minds, to reach out to others, to understand ourselves and to extend ourselves. We write in order to celebrate and to make some sense of our astonishing world. We write in order to play and to work, to be daft and to be deeply serious. We do it to feel more human, to feel more alive.
So just start. Just write. One word then another, one sentence then another, one page then another. Off you go. Set off on your journey of exploration and discovery. Be brave. Be yourself. Feel free. Have fun. Just write.”