While making initial plans for a writing and self-publishing workshop that I am hoping to run in August 2013 at an event I am organising, I decided to look back through some of my old work and back to the first pieces I wrote for myself when I first started writing. Back in 1989 I entered the world of science fiction fandom, running a small local Doctor Who club in the West Midlands and as part of that, took on the role of the lead writer for the club’s small magazine. At that point, I had just left high school after completing my A levels, had no writing experience, nor any experience running events, clubs… well, no real organisational experience whatsoever so I was pretty much jumping right in at the deep end and was running on sheer enthusiasm.
Re-reading some of my old articles, I honestly cringe now and wonder how I ever let myself publish them and I am thankful that I have grown immensely as a writer both in style, structure, content and maturity. One thing I do believe has helped me over the years is that – even when the output from the club slowed down (and bear in mind that this was prior to the commencement of my professional career), I was still writing an incredible amount of content on an amateur basis. If I wasn’t writing about 40% of the content for my club magazine, I had started to write articles and features for other clubs and fanzines. Once my club folded, I continued it’s work and started innovative work in digital publishing in 1990 where I wrote an astonishing amount in a relatively short space of time – articles, interviews, reviews, commentary features… pretty much any type of written content that could be thought of.
Between the launch of the club in 1989 and my first professional commission in 1994 I had probably written and published several hundred articles and had already built up a loyal following and during that time I had already noticed a considerable improvement in my writing. No longer was I the gawky teenager struggling to string together more than a few paragraphs or failing to be able to write anything coherent on even the most basic of topics. Now I was a confident writer in my mid-20s able to write anything of any length and taking the lead of a large project to the point that I was editing the work of others for quality control. I felt empowered but also took a lot of pride in my work.
One important thing that it did teach me though was the importance of continuing to write all the time. Whether I was being published professionally or not, the constant need to write was always there and if I hadn’t kept up with writing in one form or another I don’t think my skills would have reached the level they have now. Even now, I have had a period where I stepped back from professional work for a few years to focus more on my family and a few personal projects but I made sure that I continued to write while doing so to ensure that my writing ability didn’t dull during that time. As a writer, the one thing I fear the most is losing my edge or losing inspiration at any point or finding that I have lost the passion or desire for writing any more, but by continuing to write all the time, even in quieter times, not only will my writing continue to improve, but it will help keep my mind fresh and active.