It began with a golden pencil.
The memory is still sharp in my mind, clear as a mountain stream, as if it happened only yesterday and not all that time ago. I was perhaps seven years old and sitting across from my cousin at our nanna’s kitchen table. I remember the sunlight spilling in through the windows, the sound of someone puttering about in the kitchen, the feel and the look of the aged wood beneath my palms. Coloured pencils and textas were scattered everywhere and a heaping mound of scrap paper lay in the table’s centre, primed and ready for whatever we saw fit to make from it.
The gold pencil kept catching my eye. It was so pretty—shiny and metallic, glinting as it caught the light, its tip slender and fine as if it had never been used. It was the only one of its kind. I wanted it. So did my cousin.
We fought over that pencil, I’m sure. We were at that age where if one of us wanted something, the other was sure to want it too, and the possibility of sharing was less than none. As the oldest, it was my stalwart belief that I had the right to the first turn at anything and everything, and so I seized control of the pencil and claimed it for my own.
But what to do with it? The pencil was magical, like a rainbow, or a fairy…or a unicorn. Slowly, an idea coalesced from the fog of my young mind, an idea as golden and magical as the pencil I clutched so very tightly in my right hand.
And so a story called The Unicorn was born…
Now, I’m sure I wrote a story at some point before this. I must have, since story-writing was one of the things we did on occasion at school. But The Unicorn was different. Special. It’s the first story I can remember writing, and the first story I still possess that I wrote of my own accord. I used the hard-won golden pencil to decorate the front cover, and I plucked many sheets from the scrap paper pile to cut up for its pages.
The story was not written in one day. Oh no. I recall revisiting it on several occasions when I was at my nanna’s house. The volume grew longer and thicker and increasingly complex until I was compelled to retitle it The Unicorn and her faimily. Yes, I’m aware my spelling left something to be desired.
The Unicorn and her faimily wears its influences on its sleeve. My aunty had been reading me the Harry Potter books, so the main characters were children called James and Lilly. I enjoyed The Faraway Tree series, so James, Lilly and their unicorn friend visited the Land of Take-What-You-Want and the Land of Topsy Turvy. Also, since I was only seven, I couldn’t resist naming the supporting characters after myself, my brother, and my mother’s best friend.
When I eventually brought the story to a close, it was twenty chapters and fifty-eight A5 pages long—an accomplishment I admit I remain rather proud of to this day. The Unicorn and her faimily was my very first “book”…and the last story I finished for a very, very long time.
- Inspiration can come from anywhere. Case in point: a pencil.
- Perseverance pays off. That was something my seven-year-old self must have vaguely understood but I did not come to fully appreciate for at least another decade.
- It’s very easy for your writing to be influenced by what you’re reading. For this reason, I usually don’t write for a few days after finishing a great book, or else I inadvertently start to incorporate the ideas, themes and characters explored in that book.
- My cousin is a much better drawer than me. The Unicorn might have been my idea, but her front cover looked a whole lot better than mine 😛
The story of my writing journey will be continued in PART 2: Descent into despair…