Way back in 2005, after being unceramoniously informed by my I.T. instructor that my spelling was atrocious, (He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t very tactful) I enrolled on an English Literature course at my local college. I wrote about this situation and the path it eventually sent me down in one of my first posts, but I didn’t go into the 9 month course itself.
Near the end of the course, I was asked to write a fictional story based on Bill Bryson’s great biographical novel ‘A Walk In The Woods’. The tutor asked me to write my own version of it, with the only acceptable similarity to the original being simply, a walk through the woods! I had never read anything Bryson had wrote, so I bought it and dived headfirst into it, and was instantly captivated with the author’s ability to transport the reader into his world.
I was happy and relieved that I didn’t have to try and replicate his greatest work (No chance anyway) but I was also a little flummoxed with how to set about my task. It was a few days before the deadline when I was talking to my mum about the members of her family that I had never met. All of my grandparents had died long before I was born, and most of my aunties and uncles. It was during our conversation that a lightbulb came on in my head. I decided right there and then that I would base my story around my personal journey through the woods, a walk that would be intermittently paused as I came upon different members of my family from the past.
I wasn’t sure about the way I would write it because at that time, I hadn’t found my literary voice (Still haven’t) and I didn’t have a writing style. It was strange because when I first started the course, all I intended to do was improve my spelling, improve the way I put my thoughts across and just pass the bloody thing. However, when I handed over that final piece to the tutor, I wanted more than that, I wanted him and the examining board to like it. I realised, all of a sudden, that I was driven to keep on improving, which really wasn’t like the happy-go-lucky, couldn’t care less man that had started the course.
I experienced contrasting feelings when I had finally found something that I love to do. I felt almost seperate from the person I had always been. I also felt isolated and thinking about it, I think I was able to put my feelings of isolation into the story.
Whether it was luck or just the right place right time for me, my tutor didn’t say anything to me the week after I handed my story over to him, he mearly nodded and winked at me.
I recieved my results through the post and managed to get an A star.
To celebrate my result, I packed a haversack with a few sandwiches, a flask of tea and armed with cigarettes, I took myself for a long, quiet walk through the woods (I know how to celebrate!)