“Let me tell you a story…”
That’s how my dad begins every one of his tales. He has a few to tell, I can assure you.
My dad has lived in the US, Italy, Germany and here in the UK. He has visited India and Malawi with charitable ambitions. He grew up with three brothers, two sisters and an often necessarily-absent father (due to his service in the military). My dad has also been married twice (with me to show for the first one).
So yeah. He’s got plenty of stories up his sleeve for pretty much any situation.
I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been such an inspiration to me, in a social capacity. When I’m amongst a group I usually have something to say, an anecdote to share or a story of my own to tell. I very rarely have to shrink away from a gathering whether they’re new to me or not. Whenever I’m with a group of family members, my dad is almost always at the centre, holding court. It’s a kind of quiet confidence that I would really like to emulate.
However, more important to me than his social credentials are his creative ones. Professionally, he is a retail manager and has been for many years. Management is something that he is very good at (even at his most humble, I think he would agree) but I don’t believe that it is what he was born to do (I imagine he’d most likely agree with that too). He has a creative mind like few others I’ve ever met and an artistic flair with words in order to properly compliment it. I’ll always remember one of the opening lines from one of the short stories that were included as part of a game’s rulebook that he worked on (probably my favourite of what he’s written): “The night was wicked cold.” The argument that was put forward was that the line should be “wickedly cold” (something about the proper use of adverbs or some such nonsense) but my dad stood fast. “Wicked cold” just sounded better to him so that’s how it stayed. I’ve always preferred the line that way too.
As a writer, he’s always tried to write stuff that he knows he’d like to read. That’s an attitude that I’ve shamelessly tried to copy. Sometimes I’ve written things that weren’t very good, but they were what I wanted to write at the time. An uncompromising approach to creativity is something I’ve taken from my dad. People might not like something that I’ve written (hell, I might not even like it myself) but at the very least it will be practise. I actually have something in my drawer of old scripts and stories (yep, a drawer full of scraps and notebooks just sitting there) called ‘Untitled Mediocre Project’. It was a story about the crossing paths of three very different couples. Unfortunately, it was just a bit underwhelming. It had some very small good bits that I want to keep, though. I’ve always just considered it practice and I think I’m better for it.
That’s the thing I’m most grateful for. My dad taught me that being a good writer isn’t always about being good. It’s about writing what you want and not being deterred when what you want doesn’t turn out as good as you’d hoped. Being good at anything doesn’t just happen.
Keep writing. Keep getting better. Keep gathering stories. Then, maybe one day, I’ll have the confidence to hold court like my dad does.
One day, maybe I’ll be the storyteller.