Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Inner Child

Blog / Friday, January 29th, 2016

Something just occurred to me as I was working (as it always does) and I thought it would make a pretty interesting post.

I used to be so embarrassed to talk about what I did and what I wrote in case older, or more established, people would turn their noses up at me. It was drilled into me by a few of my lecturers at university that fantasy, sci-fi and anything that’s not realistic is a waste of time – they called it ‘the unintelligent man’s fiction’ if I remember correctly – and I never built on any of my ideas because of this. I was too scared to embarrass myself in front of my teachers and the class, despite the fact a lot of the students in there were lovers of fantasy as well. It’s only as I’ve grown older that I’ve accepted what a wonderful genre it can be. Admittedly I understand how some areas of the genres can seem a bit taxing if they’re done wrong, but when you get a writer who paints a picture so vivid that you can put yourself right in the middle of their world, how can that be something people turn their noses up at? In my opinion, these genres are some of the hardest to do well – especially stories with extensive world building.

On that note, while I was writing this afternoon I suddenly realised how incredibly happy I am to be doing what I’m doing and how much I want other people to see it. It struck me as wonderful that I can actually close my eyes and picture these worlds I’ve created with vivid detail – but for as long as I’m silent no one else will ever know what they look like, sound like or smell like, and that’s a damned shame.

What I find the most enjoyable is that I don’t have to be embarrassed of my inner child anymore. I’ve felt for so long that because I’m a 20-something woman-child it was something to be ashamed of; that there was something wrong with me because I enjoyed reading books by Kristin Cashore, Isaac Marion and Lori M. Lee instead of Rachel Joyce, Laura Elliot and Patricia Scanlan (these haven’t been chosen specifically, they were just a few that came to mind and one book is no less magnificent than the other, etc.). Granted you do have to grow up in a lot of ways, but there’s no age limit on imagination. I count myself extremely lucky that I can sit here and invent new species, new names and new languages, even though I might get laughed at for it. A life without laughter and creativity is not one I’d want to live.

This isn’t me belittling any genre, in fact, perhaps it’s a call for others to think of the impact of your opinions on others. There’s being helpful, there’s being critical and then there’s being an asshole. Just because you don’t really like a certain genre or gender or point-of-view, doesn’t mean you have to turn everyone else against it as well. It’s the ice cream debate. You ask most people what flavour they like and a lot of people will say chocolate. Boring as it is, I like vanilla – all day e’eryday. If someone ridiculed me for tucking into a gallon of it because it wasn’t the flavour they liked I’d tell them to sod off…and judge them silently for not stopping me from eating a gallon of ice cream. So why it’s taken me four years to be proud of the stuff I write, and to get it into my head that there are so many people who love the genre as well, is utterly baffling. All because of a few comments passed around at university. But when those people are marking your work, you cater to your audience, as it were.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t write things I wasn’t enjoying; it just wasn’t 100% MY kind of writing. It was limited and written for pleasing other people. Me, personally, I’m a total dreamer. My ‘mind palace’, as Sherlock would put it, is full of dark corners and shelves packed with tattered books. It hums with the possibility of adventure, the promise of love, and some truly bizarre characters. It’s a safari of wildlife that people would call me an utter weirdo for imagining; an encyclopaedia of plants, religions, histories and customs that my stories would be pretty dry without.

Hell, if I wasn’t a writer I’d probably be a schizophrenic.


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