I’ve been wanting to create writing kits for years and years. My mother gave me one over thirty years ago and it made me start writing. It was a Christmas present because she was fed up with me talking about writing but not actually doing it. She always gave me presents she considered useful, like a container to keep my kitchen bits and pieces in because she thought my kitchen needed sorting out.
As so often with her presents, I was a bit daunted by her gift. I had three small children, the youngest only two. My husband was away at sea for half the time and my two year old wouldn’t stay at play group without me. I also had an Irish Wolfhound and two cats to look after. When would I have time to write, I wondered?
However, I did make a New Year’s Resolution to start writing a book sometime that year and I’m ashamed to confess that is the only resolution I’ve ever kept. The ‘have a tidier kitchen’ never made it. I did at least want to write a book, tidying has never been my thing.
Of course she had invented it herself; there were no kits, but she assembled everything she thought a writer needed. (she’d had two novels published herself, years before.)
There was a ream of paper (which translates as a packet of paper), a pocket dictionary, which still lives in my desk drawer. A copy of Roget’s Thesaurus (in my bookshelf) which I used to use to help me spell. (I am very dyslexic). There was Tippex when it was still made of strips of paper, before it was fluid, pencils and pens. It was all put together in a box file.
Very few of those things are in my writing kit because things have changed so much since I started writing. We do still need pencils and we have added other things to our kit I now use a lot. There are notebooks, several of them, so you can always have one with you. Post It notes to help with plotting (and notes to oneself). The folder is a bit smaller as you don’t need one to take your entire novel.
But all those years ago, things were different. We needed dictionaries, paper, and Tippex. I think it was in January that I went upstairs to my bedroom with my kit and sat at the old fashioned school desk we had put in the window and started. My husband was at home and in charge. I put paper in my typewriter (which was a proper office one, not just a little portable) and began.
I loved it! Suddenly I realised what had been missing in my life. I used to spend a lot of time wandering round with my children and my dog wondering why I wasn’t totally happy when I had so much. I also had a lovely house and a lovely husband. So why wasn’t I blissfully happy? Why did I keep thinking, what’s missing from my life?
But I had found it. I was a writer. It took me a lot of years before I became one with a book on the shelves of bookshops but at last I was content.
What makes my kit different, and I like to think a little bit better, than the one my mother gave me is it has tips from a published writer. In this case, tips from me. I have taught a lot of writing courses over the years and I love helping future writers. I have a boast that I once gave a course in Cheltenham years ago and I know at least five people who were there went on to be very successful writers.
I know perfectly well this wasn’t because of anything I said, but it was a thrill when I see their names to think I knew them at the very beginning of their writing journey.
If you know anyone who would like to write but somehow hasn’t ever started, give them a kit. It’s not only really useful, it’s a statement of faith. It says, ‘here you are, you’re a writer, you can do it. You can even buy it for yourself!