by Annette Young
When I was a child, I was always told no. Oh, how I hated that word. I saw it as a continuous effort to scupper my plans to explore and to redefine my boundaries. I may have only been four or five years old at the time, but when you have a determined nature and an adventurous streak, the word no becomes the worst word in the world.
In reality, it meant that throughout my childhood I was held back from escaping out beyond the front gate and unable to experience potentially wonderful adventures with friends and, for my waywardness of trying to sneak out, I was continuously threatened to be sent to my room. This was in my early years and then, subsequently, I learned the meaning of being, ‘grounded’ in my teenage years. As a six year old, I could escape past the newly placed side gate however high my father made it or, irrespective of the number of locks he insisted on adding to it. I was able to clamber over it and to escape. Ah, freedom. It may have beckoned but I never seemed to make it far before being hauled back in.
In my vocabulary, the word no translated to, ‘well, there’s a small chance it’s worth the punishment’. Perhaps climbing out of the bedroom window when I was 15 and running off to meet a boyfriend was over-stepping the mark a little bit, especially since I got caught trying to climb back up onto the front porch in a bid to sneak back into my room. Game over – grounded for two months.
I was a determined child irrespective of my parent’s plans to keep me safe and, in my eyes, tethered to the home base, but worse than their over-protectiveness, was my increasing awareness that there would be things that apparently I couldn’t do. This extended into my creativity.
From an early age, I was constantly writing and drawing. When exciting ventures such as rampaging around the neighbourhood has been stopped, you have to find other fun things to do. So, I would create cartoons and make comic book strips and my creative efforts would be passed around to my friends so they could read with great delight, (sorry if I bullied anyone into reading them) but when you love what you do, you are prepared to go all out and get it and this meant, needing an audience, even if I only wanted an appreciative one. Importantly, I learned that I had a talent for writing and drawing and even more importantly, I loved it.
Most children dream of having adventurous jobs, and I wanted to be both an artist and a writer. My imagination soared with the potential life I could have, but, I can remember categorically being told that to be either required an extraordinary amount of luck and it just didn’t happen for most people. This infuriated me beyond belief – as you can imagine.
I would sit for hours writing and drawing and I knew it was something that I could do. I didn’t want to hear all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do it or, why it wouldn’t get me anywhere. Like most parents, mine wanted me to have a secure future and the messages were clear, study hard – and only view creative pastimes as hobbies. Hmm. That wasn’t going to happen. My dreams of sneaking off to London to go to Art School were firmly squashed however as were my plans to escape to Edinburgh at the age of 16 and become an artist. There were always reasons to say no. Even the best laid plans and creative ventures were too risky.
Now, I know as an adult that my parents were merely trying to protect me from the knock-backs in life. Of course, no-one welcomes rejection and traditional publishing threw a few of those slips my way in my teenage years. But surely, to achieve anything in life you have to work towards it and realise that the greatest achievements are unlikely to come gift-wrapped? Although I was determined to get my work published and the need to do so only increased throughout my late twenties, I often wonder if the concerns of my parents made me afraid to take risks and become a little reluctant to send my work out there.
If we live in fear of something, we ruin our chances of succeeding. I certainly became more aware of the possibility of failure and this unfortunately continued in a creative sense once I indulged in romantic liaisons. Partner’s at that time thought I was mad to even try, in other words, who was I to think I could be a professional writer? Later partner’s saw my determination to ‘make it’ as a writer only as a threat to the relationship.
The rejection letters I received certainly knocked me for six. I do remember crying – and my dreams shattering all around me. But, then I also remember giving myself a talking to and carefully piecing my dreams back together bit by bit and vowing to make it to publication whatever it took. Sweat, blood and tears, I was prepared to go all the way. Now, I have always been a fairly determined character, luckily, but many people may not have the same determination or, stubborn strength of character. If people are continuously told no throughout life, no wonder they give up. If people have a dream, they should go for it. If they fail through their own efforts, or a lack of skill, well, maybe lesson learned, or, perhaps they dig deep, they grit their teeth and they try again and again until they break through that barrier called no.
When you are told that you are just one person out of millions who have similar talents and the chances of succeeding are limited, it’s not conducive to encouraging that person to strive forward. It doesn’t matter that parents are merely trying to protect their children from potential hurts and failures, if you don’t try, you don’t get.
That’s always been my motto.
I say this to every creative individual out there, if you want it, work for it and do your utmost to achieve it. Other people should not limit your potential, however well-meaning. So what if you fail in one area? Take your talents all the way. You’ve achieved far more experience and skills through trying than if you listen to people telling you that you need to be satisfied with your lot. What’s the worst that can happen? You get to dine out and regale your exciting journey through life – mishaps, highlights and all and you can laugh at your own tenacity.
Next time you hear the words no you can’t, stomp on them.