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Inspiration - Child Writing

Finding Inspiration

  12+   While sorting through storage boxes at home, I found an old notebook belonging to my son. It wasn't a school exercise book but something he'd jotted and doodled in as a twelve-year-old. Among its random pages was a short story he'd written in 2014 about a father who doesn't have "great ideas".

Many people have great ideas. My father, however, is not one of them. He is always inventing things to help us be safe that are stupid. Of his many stupid ideas, most of them have hurt us. For instance, when I was one, he made a diaper-changing machine that nearly suffocated me by putting a diaper over my face. This is my life.

Like other jottings in my son's notebook, the piece is unfinished. And, I must stress, the story about "his father" is entirely fictional because I have great ideas! However, after reading it, I reflected on the inspirations for my early creative writing.

A Ship to Australia and Sammy Snail

My first dateable recollection of story writing is as an eight-year-old. My mother and I emigrated to Australia as "Ten Pound Poms" on a cruise ship when I was two. At primary school, I wrote a "true" story about how it had sunk and how we'd climbed down the ship's anchor chain to reach a lifeboat.

I also recall writing a series of stories about a private investigator called Sammy Snail. Yes, that was his name, and he was a mollusc. Like Sherlock Holmes and other famous detectives, Sammy always solved his cases, albeit slowly!

Kidnapped and Sand Island

When I was ten, my class had an English project to write and illustrate a book. Working in pairs, a classmate and I wrote Kidnapped, the tale of a young boy kidnapped by bad guys. The boy somehow escapes (I don't recall the details), and the bad guys end up in prison.

We were working on a sequel, Revenge — I had already drawn the cover with a bad guy using a file to cut through the iron bars of his prison cell window — when our teacher announced the end of the project. 

I remember feeling disappointed we couldn't finish the sequel. So, at home, I wrote and illustrated an Enid Blyton/Famous Five-style adventure story, Sand Island. My aunt, the only one in our family who owned a typewriter, typed up the manuscript, and my father helped me bind and cover the book. The treasured first (and only) edition still exists fifty-plus years later.

Gang Initiation

Fast forward a few years, and my next vivid creative writing memory is a last-minute high school English assignment. I was fourteen, a troubled teenager, and I'd had several weeks to produce a multimedia reflection on modern life but had nothing to show for it.

The day before I was due to hand in the assignment, I pulled my first all-nighter and wrote a short story about a (troubled) teenager who wants to join a gang but must first complete initiation tasks set by the leader.

My story followed the teenager through the night as he wandered the city streets, ticking off the tasks. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and although I didn't name it in the story, this was "the city".

A police chase ensued, and the teenager ran to "the park" (Kings Park, overlooking Perth). As the police closed in on him, the teenager sprinted up the spiralling steps of "the tower" (the fifteen-metre-high DNA Tower in Kings Park). Trapped at the top, he climbed over the safety railing, slipped and fell. (I dramatically ended my story mid-fall — this was before trigger warnings and Lifeline.)

I was tired but exhilarated the following day at school. Because of its swear words (probably a few "bloodys"), gang action and grim denouement, my classmates pleaded with our teacher to let me read the story aloud. And, bless her, she consented.

I've never forgotten the adrenaline buzz I felt that day reading my short story to the class and hearing their positive feedback. (My English teacher gave me an A for the assignment. "I would have given you an A+," she told me, "but I know you only wrote the story last night." Nevertheless, I thought it was a fair mark, and I remember her still as my all-time favourite teacher.)

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Finding Inspiration

Did one of my "stupid ideas" inspire my son to write his story about the father and the diaper-changing machine? I don't know.

But I know I loved to write from an early age and that the inspiration for my stories ranged from a "Ten Pound Pom" voyage to a sleuthing snail, the Famous Five and a last-minute English assignment.

And fittingly for a storytelling father, finding my son's old notebook inspired me to write this blog post.

© 2022 Robert Fairhead

With thanks to sharpemtbr from Pixabay for sharing the notebook image used in this blog post.

I wrote the Finding Inspiration blog post eight years after my son wrote his short story about a father who doesn't have great ideas. Once again, I stress his story is entirely fictional because I had great ideas as a father in 2014 and still do today. And I've never made a diaper-changing machine, though that is an idea worth pursuing!

N.B. Like reading my story to the English class as a fourteen-year-old, the middle-aged me still loves narrating my short stories and blog posts, including this post, on the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast!

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Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.

Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.

Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.

He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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