Last night I listened to a story written by my childhood friend A's nine-year-old son, let's call him King James of the Highlands. King James of the Highlands is, naturally, currently fascinated by all things royal.
In one page of bold and sloping handwriting, his imaginary 'autobiographical' tale plunged us deep into 1800s English regency, detailing with startling precision, clarity of voice and a cheeky wit the story of his life.
His King James, we learnt, lived beyond the bounds of 19th century royal custom, siring three children to an American lady he chose not to marry, before his death (presumably as a bachelor) of a heart attack at the age of 65.
Now if only I could figure out how to get inside his head and learn the secrets of his gift for storytelling, my novel could virtually write itself.
Most of the 'how to write' books I've read (which isn't many to be honest) at some point talk about tapping into your childhood mind to access the imagination. They suggest exercises where you take yourself back to moments in remembered time as a child, where the rigidity (anality?) of adult thought doesn't exist and, creativity unfettered, words fall off the pen in a stream of consciousness that will, hopefully, unlock your literary genius.
Not surprisingly, it's difficult to do - cast asunder a lifetime of learned thought processes and subconscious self-censorship - but it's fun to try.
Even more fun, would be to hang out with King James of the Highlands for a spell and tap into his mind-boggling inventiveness. Who knows? Keep it up and he just may knock JK Rowling off her throne.