I think the first time I ever realised that real life wasn’t really all that good was around the late 1970s. As a 7 year old boy in 1977 Star Wars came at just the right time. By then I was already spending much more than 50% of my time in my own carefully crafted alternate universe, so to see this fantastic science fiction vision of conflict and self-discovery in a distant galaxy unfold on the big screen was pretty much to cement the fact that I should hand over a far greater proportion of my life to the “pretend” worlds.
Even at age 7 I knew I wanted to spend my life “creating”. With a pencil in my hand I could draw and write all of the wonderful things that I was dreaming up. And boy did I dream some stuff up.
In the years that followed Star Wars we saw such classics as Alien, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blade Runner hit the screens. The timing of these movies was just perfect. In school I was surrounded by like-minded kids. We all dreamed of creating our own adventure stories. Naturally we all placed ourselves smack bang in the centre of each great quest. Our imaginations were running riot when the next great event in our lives came about – the home computer.
As 12 year old kids with wild imaginations and the yearning to create and tell stories Sinclair’s Spectrum, Commodore’s C64 and Atari’s 800XL provided a perfect outlet. We would quickly learn to write BASIC programs and before very long were creating and telling stories to one another in digital form. Anyone old enough will remember the delight of getting your first text adventure up on the screen:
You are at a crossroads. Do you turn left toward the Village or right toward the Forest.
Such games were a blast to create and a lot of fun to play. You never really knew the ending you just knew of a ton of great situations to place the player/reader in.
It was around this time in the early 1980s that Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy series of create your own adventure novels emerged. They were essentially the same as our simple text adventures but included a bit more of an RPG element in that you had to protect your stats and inventory. Who could ever forget their first quest in to Firetop Mountain ?
Shortly after what I fondly remember as an exciting and creative time in my youth the reality of life started to creep in. Exams and the inevitability of further education started to raise their ugly heads. I hated exams and hated school. I learned a great many things at school but nothing like I’ve learned since. I guess the most important thing that school gave me was a safety net. A safe place in which I could safely escape to my comfy cosy world where I would simply create. If I could go back to 1983 I’m sure I’d like to think that I’d do it all differently. Make more of my life. But to be honest I think I’d quite honestly do it all exactly the same.
So zoom forward the best part of 30 years and where am I now ?
Well I work as a web developer. I still create but this time I get paid for it. How long that will last I just don’t know but I’m enjoying it.
I also have a wife and children. I have responsibilities. I have a house to maintain and cars on the drive.
What free time I get is spent collapsed in front of the television or with my wife. It’s hard sometimes just remembering that there’s more to life than family and responsibility and that you are married. Life it seems is just as much work as work is !
I wouldn’t change it for anything.
But I still, all these years later, have the same urge to create and tell stories as I did when I was a young boy. I still imagine far off worlds populated by magical and mythical monsters and young heroes battling with ancient sorcery and fantastical weapons.
My outlet however isn’t a word processor to collect such ideas it’s a blog. Or Twitter. Or Facebook. I seem to spend more time talking about writing than I actually do writing.
So I called time on it. I decided to relive my youth and start writing again. Start creating. I’m pleased to say it’s going very well and I have a wonderful repository of fantastic ideas and mini stories taking shape. Long may it last :) What’s really incredible is that this whole process has dug up a ton of characters and story-lines that I dreamed up as a 10 year old.