Matthew Munson: On the final countdown to Christmas

Bryan and Matthew preparing for Christmas

We’re onto the final countdown now; Christmas is less than two weeks away. School has broken up, and I don’t go back to university until the end of January. I am fortunate in that my job doesn’t require me to work shifts (for which I am eternally grateful – kudos to the people who do, and who will be working when the rest of us are off), and I can have a nice break away from work.

I’m sad that I’ll be away from university for a few weeks; I’m really enjoying it so far and consider myself fortunate to be on a course I genuinely like with a range of people. Writing fascinates me, with its ability to inform, entertain, and educate (I think I’ve lapsed into BBC-talk there). Being a sci-fi and fantasy nut, I absorbed Terry Pratchett’s comic fantasy books incredibly quickly and felt I learnt a lot from him as a writer as well as from his stories. There was so much back-story and veiled overlaps to the “real world” that the books really broadened my mind.

My son and I read all of Rick Riordon’s books together, all about the gods from Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Norse histories, and I am genuinely certain that I picked up a lot of information whilst being absorbed by the good stories.

Being creative is something we all have the capacity for, but creativity comes in many forms. Bryan is a very good dancer and has a natural sense of rhythm, whereas I have absolutely none – literally no coordination at all. He also has an eye for drawing that I don’t possess. I am in awe of his abilities, but I’m also content with the abilities I do have.

I have always loved writing, right from a young age. The first story I remember writing was at school in the lovely Mrs Cooper’s class (who, incidentally, I bumped into recently after 30 years or so, and I was delighted to see her again) about a cowboy who rode into space on the back of a dinosaur. I illustrated it and bound it with Sellotape; that’s how proud of it I was. That sparked something in me I was passionate about, and it made me want to write more. That teacher was important in fanning the flames of my creativity, and even after 30+ years, I recognised her instantly when we walked past each other on the street. Teachers can be very important in your life.

It’s a joy to fan the flames of creativity in my own son. I gladly support his passionate love of dance; he goes to dance classes every week at a dance school in Ramsgate, and he comes alive in the lessons. He never complains about going and gets passionately excited about everything he learns.

That’s superb, and I want him to keep feeling that way; it’s important to see him enjoy things like this. If he’s happy, then I’m happy, and encouraging him to realise his talents is part of that. Going to see him in dance shows is a hugely proud moment in my life; I couldn’t tap dance or do ballet if my life depended on it, but it’s wonderful to watch people with talent and dedication doing just that.

I’m working on a book at the moment that I hope to have completed in the spring of 2024. Whether or not it will be published is another matter. I’m going to be looking for a new publisher when it’s ready to be sent out for other people to read, although it’s still a work in progress. It’s a story I started work on five or ten years ago, but other work meant this one needed to take a back seat. Now that I’ve come back to it, I see how my writing style has evolved. I’m certainly not perfect, but I like to think I’ve learnt enough to get better. I’d be more worried if I was still writing in exactly the same way. When my precious works were published, I had some very good editors, and I learnt a lot from them.

My lecturers at university all come from different literary traditions – books, plays, poetry, and so on – so my horizons are going to be broadened. My module from the end of January is on poetry, which I’ve briefly dabbled in long ago but never found my niche … or my confidence … or any talent … so the lessons will be interesting. I’m looking forward to being pushed in my comfort zone a little; if I can write a decent haiku at the end of the course, then maybe I’ll have become at least a little better.