She was dressed as the definition of a “Plain Jane”. She sat in the window seat of the 7.30 train going from South to Central. Nondescript headphones in her ears, she bobbed her head occasionally to the sound of the beat. You wouldn’t know it if you didn’t know her but she had the personality of someone with an asymmetrical haircut. The way her thoughts leaped towards genius, her words that cut worse than the sharpest knives and her quirks that would rival a hipster’s dream, everything about her was noteworthy but she dressed so you wouldn’t notice her at all.
When I was growing up, I dreamt of being many things but the one that still sticks to date is wanting to be a writer. You know how some kids think about what kind of pop star or athlete or scientist they’d like to be, well, I wondered what kind of writer I’d be. In the early stages of this fantasy, I wished to be Enid Blyton who wrote Noddy and a few years later I wanted to be Enid Blyton who wrote the Famous Five. This was followed by a brief delusion of wanting to be an Apollo astronaut, which lasted an embarrassingly long time. Then the Harry Potter books came into my life so I obviously wanted to be the next J K Rowling. This fantasy also lasted a very long time. To be honest, it was active until a few years ago when I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire. This was when I realised where the Harry Potter books actually stand in the fantasy genre. No offence, Miss Rowling gave me some of the best years of childhood fantasy but my over-confident young adult ego was grandly mistaken about the entire genre. I don’t blame myself too much though, I didn’t know better back then. Now I read epic fantasy and know why the name is fitting. And no, I don’t want to be the next Robert Jordan (who is featured heavily on this blog recently, if you’ve noticed), I’m not that delusional.
Before I get to the kind of writer I want to be I must mention the Jane Austen phase. It didn’t come about when I first read Pride & Prejudice or Emma even. The inkling to follow in Miss Austen’s footsteps came upon me when I read Persuasion, undoubtedly her most mature work. I was lost not only in the plot, but also in the nuances of her storytelling and her first-class talent of writing complex and complete characters. I wanted to write like her so much that I started writing letters to her. I never posted any of course, I’m not a weirdo, and she’s long dead so there was no where to post them, really. But I did write quite a few of them in, what I thought would’ve been, a style pleasing to her. They all began with “My Dearest Jane”, as though we were sisters separated. I would write to her in a very honest manner about my health (and enquire about hers), my work, about any gentlemen who were courting me, any impropriety I’d experienced and other Austen-ite things. This one-sided correspondence was one of my most memorable attempts at being the type of writer I wanted to become. Once it was clear that I had none of Miss Austen’s eloquence or mastery with prose, I stopped writing to her regularly. Yes, I say “regularly” because I still write to her occasionally. I understood my limitations, I didn’t stop being “a little bit strange”, as I’m referred to by my friends.
So, on to the type of writer I want to become, the answer is the Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling type. I want to make you laugh and think “Oh yeah, I’ve been there”. I want you to feel warm and comforted without weighing too heavily on your intellect. I want you to feel like you’ve understood me a little bit and think that maybe I understand you a little as well. I want to give you a glimpse of what’s in my head. I want to certainly discuss a few serious issues but I don’t want to take you down the deep and dark recesses of my psyche (I’m saving that for a psychiatrist who will need to get his own psychiatrist when he’s done therapising me). I want to be this writer because there is a part of me that believes this might be an achievable goal. This is my “I’m not eating chips for 15 days” rather than my “I give up chocolate for a week” because as we all know, chocolate is basically addictive and it’s not our fault that we want it so much. I’m not saying that I won’t try my “give up chocolate” gig, that will be my attempt at a young adult fantasy series. That’s still very much on the cards. But for now, I will try my hand at Fey and be happy if I end up with something even slightly close to Kaling.