I remember in grade 5 I accompanied my dad to my school’s parent / teacher night. The teacher’s comments went something along the lines of, ‘He’s a bright lad. He just needs to pay attention more and apply himself. He’s quite the class clown. Often daydreaming.’ I turned to my dad and smiled. I’d taken it as a compliment. They both stared down with pursed lips at me.
I’ve always been a daydreamer. I’m guilty of asking people a question and then drifting off midway through their reply. Often I don’t even register their answer. But I nod and say, ‘Right,’ or ‘Okay,’ or ‘Ah, yep. That’s Right. Okay,’ just to leave them with the impression I understood.
There seems to have always been an inner writer sitting in my head, staring out the windows of my eyes, tapping away at keys and taking notes of particular turns of phrase or story ideas. It just happens. I see a person and somehow fill in everything I don’t know about them. The house they live in. The lounge they watch television in. What they do on weekends.
I once saw a young boy walking from a milk bar in the morning holding a carton of milk. Within a second, I’d decided where he was from, where his parents were from, how many brothers and sisters he had, and that he was the youngest of them all, and it was his job to get the milk each morning. I wrote a short story about him entitled For China.
Another series I’ve been writing sprung from one word: fog. It became an anagram for Federation of Galaxies, which became a universe of characters and planets and multidimensional corporations and the people fighting to bring them down. All of that from one little word. The writer in my head got tapping and never stopped. What was meant to be one story became a launching pad for five novels. That number has been whittled down now to three, but it might blow out again should the inspiration strike and the universe keep expanding.
I feel all artists are born the moment they question, ‘What if…?’ or say to themselves, ‘I wonder what would happen…’, or ‘I saw this thing and made me think of this…’ It’s an innate quality all children have, and some adults if they’re lucky enough to let that voice of wonder keep on talking to them. That child sitting in a classroom, who isn’t always paying attention, but is attentive to whatever inner journeys are being played out.
I have that spark still within me – that ability to build a world from a word – as does my wife, and I have one sincere hope for my daughter: that she can stare out a window and see the same world of wonder. And if I ever attend a parent / teacher night with her, and her teacher informs me she’s often found daydreaming, I know I’m going to turn to her, and she’ll find a small, proud smile residing on my lips.