Friday, 31 December 2010

Help! I'm Still a Teenager!

I should probably be writing some kind of review of 2010 today, but frankly I'd rather chalk it up to experience and move swiftly on. As a much better writer than me once put it: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Instead, why not join me in celebrating my 26th year of being a teenager? Yes, I will admit that mathematically and physically I don't actually qualify. I get served in the pub without ID, and I'm able to buy all sorts of inappropriate movies and games with nary a flicker of interest from the sales clerk. But I feel like a teenager. As I climaxed a row with my not-yet-teenage daughter the other day by flouncing out and slamming the door, I was struck by a horrifying thought - what will it be like when there are two of us in the house?

Age has given me many things - a few grey hairs, a sprinkling of wisdom, a painful awareness of my own mortality. What it has yet to gift me is the thing I yearn for most - emotional stability. I still live my days in a jumble of contradictory feelings and fear I always will. But while this doesn't always make me fun to live with, I think it gives me a massive leg-up when it comes to writing teen books.

Those teenage years are a unique time in our lives, a period where the heart rules the head in almost everything. It is a time of being utterly alive - with all the pain and pleasure that entails. Even on my current emotional rollercoaster, I miss the intensity of teenage feelings, the experiences so raw that I can almost stretch out my fingertips and touch them.

When writing a book for teens and pre-teens, I feel my responsibility is not to the plot, characters or language but to the emotional truth of what goes on the page. So many times I've read a book or watched a film that, while admirably made, doesn't connect with me on an emotional level. Perhaps this goes back to my inner teenage state, an inability to appreciate art on a purely intellectual basis. But I'd also argue that art has no business whatever being intellectual!

After I'd calmed down the other night, I went back upstairs to apologise to my daughter. She'd been crying, so I comforted her, felt bad and lamented the fact that I was this stroppy teenage Peter Pan figure. She looked at me with pink eyes and said "At least you haven't grown up and got boring, Daddy." Amen to that, anyway.



  1. One thing you will never be is boring. Your post resonated. I feel the same. My teenage years were rough and have never left me so I use those feelings and try to twist them into my writing and pray that it works. Wendx

  2. At least you're not a menopausal woman Nick - then you get to go through all that hormonal stuff all over again.
    Enjoyed the post - and I'm with you about emotional honesty.

  3. Don't ever grown up. My children have said similar things including 'You're not like a normal mum are you...'I that's what makes us writers so long live the emotional roller coaster and the inability to grow up. Hope 2011 brings you everything you want.

  4. great post. my teenage years were somewhat different - spent suppressing rather than expressing. maybe it's cultural! it will stand you in good stead when you're writing!

  5. I still feel like a teenager. In fact, I feel that my younger brother is really my older brother now, you see.

    Turns out, I may not be too far off from the truth. A few weeks ago, at a bus stop in London, a lady asked me whether my name was xxx. I said, 'No'. She then muttered something about me looking like a girl who goes to school with her son. Lol. A week later, a bus driver asked me whether I wanted a 'student ticket'. Again... lol.

  6. Me too! I still get IDed sometimes, which is really flattering - unless I haven't got any ID on me, in which case it is really annoying!

    And I'm with Tina - my younger sisters have totally outgrown me in that one's married with a two year old daughter and the other's a responsible teacher with a proper job - and me? I make up stories and still live at home. Peter Pan has always been my hero tho - and growing up's definitely over-rated ;)

    who's having more fun, after all...?