Two first steps

My first step after realizing my writing potential, was to ignore it.
I don’t know if this can count as an excuse, but I was 7.

Everything can be self taught.

Usually we know writing is special to us pretty soon, around the same time we learn how to start, develop and finish a story on paper. I was encouraged to express creatively since 5. In Portugal, kids started school at 7 and my father wanted me to have a head start.

I started to read all sort of books from my dad’s shelves soon after, none of it for kids my age. The first I picked was an horror novel set on the amazon forest about red ants that ate people while they were still alive. The story was basically a series of horrible, slow deaths, which to me was pure excitement.

My young self believed that if the books weren’t appropriate to me, it was not because of my age (I didn’t grasp how young I was) but because I wasn’t strong enough.

So I kept reading.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" (portuguese cover)

Amongst many others, I remember particularly loving Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein — a novel about a human raised by Martians on Planet Mars, who came to Earth when already an adult and found humans very strange — and Stephen King’s Dead Zone. My father aloud me to pick any book from his shelves as long as I promised to stop reading if I started to have nightmares. I often lied.

Around the same age, I started to fill notebooks with poems and did short stories for school. Soon after, somebody offered me a diary at Christmas and I wrote everyday, mostly about feelings and how humans interact with each other. I didn’t had many friends. I filled several diaries for many years until I was 20 and my first true love of 3 years, ended. Yes, I’m talking about a relationship between a boy and a girl, though I see it now: my first true love was writing.

Anyway, my confidence was put down and I stopped believing in fairy tales altogether. No one really lives of their writing, right? I should grow up and focus on my future!

I was partly right – no one should start writing for money – but if I’d pay attention, I would know that writing kept me balanced and you just really grow up at 30, so may as well try some craziness in your 20’s and reach for some self forgiveness later.

I was never completely off writing, but I did it so randomly that nothing I wrote was ever finished or good enough. When it concerns to writing, I fought against my innate habitually for years, probably because I grew up being taught by my father (the man who admires Stephen King) that Literature and Languages is a dead end as a career. Disregarding my instincts, I kept myself from what made me human and turned my guts upside down trying to live the professional dream society stood me proud of. I worked hard to finish my degree in my country of origin (Portugal), moved to Ireland and became an accomplished Web and Graphic Designer.

According to normal standards, giving up a great paycheck and a career full of potential, is mad. I guess sooner or later every adult has to make the big decision: to live to please others or be happy.

At the time, I’m cleaning society out of me. Have you ever felt that you are kind of an outsider in this society, almost a loner looking in, but society lives inside you (never shuts up)? It should be the other way around. They say you only start living at 30; hope they’re right.

So my first step after realizing my writing potential – at 30! – was to run to the nearest library and find what the hell can I do with it. That was in November, 2009. I brought 7 manuals on Creative Writing, Creative Editing and English Grammar and started to fill notebooks with notes.

As I read “the only way to learn how to write is to sit down and do it” (Mary Mackie) I started on my first novel. I haven’t stopped studying or writing ever since. My novel is in english and I’m completely self taught both in that language and on the craft of writing a full length novel. It’s not always magical, but one of the things I’ve learned so far is that magic is nothing but a group of tricks you master with practice.


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