By the time I'd finished sorting out the hamster, I'd come up with an idea for the story. Instead of cleaning the rest of the house I rushed off and belted out my story on the computer. I tarted it up a bit on Sunday, delivered it by hand on Monday. I was so excited, convinced that this was the start of my brilliant writing career.
Months passed. I forgot all about the story competition, and my writing career, brilliant or otherwise.
Then a letter arrived, with a cheque. I'd come second in the competition, and won £50. Suddenly my career was about to be brilliant again. I rattled off a load more stories and entered every competition I could find. I counted out the money I was going to win - plotting that we'd be able to afford a holiday this year.
We didn't go on holiday. My brilliant writing career stalled. I didn't win a single thing. And I suppose this is where personality comes in. If I'd won even one of those competitions I probably wouldn't have carried on. But because I hate being told I can't do something, it makes me more determined to succeed. I set off to write more short stories, enter more competitions, send off stories to magazines. At one point I was writing a story a day, scribbling frantically in gaps between the school run, work and rebuilding the house. (I can remember typing in the kitchen while the builders knocked a hole through the wall to make it open plan. Top tip: Brick dust jams the keyboard.)
And gradually I was shortlisted more often than not. I won a prize or two. Magazines accepted a few of my stories. I learned a lot about writing. And then I decided to write a novel.
But I sometimes wonder: would I have had the impetus to get started if I hadn't been cleaning out the hamster's cage? Do other people get started on this writing road with a chance incident - maybe an encounter that makes them think of a story idea, or something overheard? Perhaps a word of encouragement, or a lucky break, or even reading a book and think 'I could do this better'. I wonder....