Dad came late to driving. He took his first lessons in his forties, learning on a Morris 1100. Even after he passed his test, he took a while to get up courage to buy a car. By the time he got behind the wheel of his first car – a natty turquoise Cortina 1600 – he wasn’t sure he had the nerve to drive it.
But drive it he did, having the time of his life. A cautious driver when he started out, he soon gained in confidence, and then there was – I nearly said ‘there was no stopping him’, but that could be misconstrued!
Once he gained in confidence, he drove all over the place, all day if he could. Off we’d go for a trip which – unbeknownst to us – he would have planned meticulously, poring over one of the many atlases he kept. An afternoon jaunt was liable to turn into a six-hour round trip.
He and Mum set off one lunchtime from Salisbury one summer’s day, ostensibly for an afternoon’s drive, maybe as far as Stonehenge.
At eight o’clock, Big Sister and I were wondering where they’d got to. By ten o’clock, we were contemplating calling the police, local hospitals, the coastguard… well, not the coastguard, although…
At midnight, the familiar sound of Dad’s car put our minds at rest. ‘Where have you been?’ we cried. ‘We’ve been going frantic here!’
‘Aberystwyth,’ Dad said calmly. ‘Hadn’t there in years.’
Okay, so what’s any of this got to do with writing? Well, writing is a lot like learning to drive. In the early days, you’re worrying so much about finding the right gear, indicating at the right time, getting into the right lane, that you don’t enjoy the journey. You pass your test but you don’t really start to improve as a driver until you’re getting into that car every day, learning how to negotiate inner city traffic, narrow country lanes, motorways.
Writing’s just the same: to begin with, you’re concentrating so hard on technique, you forget to enjoy the journey. Write every day, tackle different sorts of writing challenge and it will get easier, you’ll travel farther, it’ll be fun.
If you come late to writing, don’t be deterred. Get behind the wheel and have a go. You’ve nothing to lose, and you’ll have some great journeys to write about.