I remember it clearly. I was 10 years old, sat in my geography lesson, and wondering why the class had already slowed down to an interminable crawl. I was desperate for it to speed up—preferably to double time, if I could have anything—but as is always the case when you’re in a lesson you don’t particularly like, time was painfully moving on second by excruciating second.
It’s clear to me now that my intense discomfort was showing on my face; my teacher, who knew me pretty well by this point and recognised that my interest in geography was somewhere lower than the floor, sighed audibly and suggested that I might like to do something else instead.
“Perhaps,” she said, “you’d like to write a story instead?”
I paused. A story? That was intriguing. I’d always enjoyed reading, obsessively so—my parents had read to me every night until I was old enough to show off my reading skills and read to myself—but could I write something myself? Well, I had about an hour and a half to try before lunch, so I did just that.
And let me tell you, it was bliss; I had the idea of writing about a cowboy who travelled into outer space on the back of a dinosaur—a stegosaurus, if memory serves. I even drew some pictures to go with the story, which ran to an entire six pages of half-folded A4 paper written in big letters. I was so proud of that piece of work, and in fact I still am—it was pure creativity, and my mind was opened to something new in a way that it never had been before.
That moment of creativity—thanks to Mrs Cooper—extended throughout my teenage years to another supportive teacher, Mrs Palm, who taught English in my secondary school. She read a longer story I wrote, based on Star Trek—bless her, I can’t imagine she was particularly interested in the genre, but she still read it and gave me feedback. The fact she didn’t laugh me out of the room—which she would have been perfectly entitled to do, given the quality of my work—but instead gave me constructive feedback was a wonderful sensation. I felt so proud that someone outside my family had read what I’d written and taken the time to consider what was good about it.
We all need to be inspired somewhere along the line; someone needs to give us the permission to try something—even if that person is us—and then we need to talk to someone we respect to hear what we’re saying. It’s a privilege to be encouraged by people you respect, and I wonder, if my mind hadn’t been encouraged by these teachers, how would I have developed my creativity instead? Would it be the same today? Hard to say, but it’s still intriguing to imagine the possibilities.
Who were your permission-givers when you were younger? Think back and remember them, savour those memories—those are the people who helped you get on this path.
© 2019 Matthew Munson
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.