I used to write a lot of stories, but I stopped in my early teens because I had these notions of the sort of person a writer should be and they didn’t match the person I was.

I spent a lot of time in my head as a kid. I would imagine up these intricate worlds and put myself as a character in them. One scenario involved me tying a rope to our wheelie bin and leading it around as if it was a traumatised horse, talking softly to help it with its fear of humans. This might seem pretty normal for a kid, but I kept it up way beyond when would have been socially acceptable. I wrote a story about that horse, complete with illustrations – but my spelling was awful, I wrote a lot of letters backwards and I often forgot the spaces between words. The only way my teacher could make sense of it was to have me read it aloud to the class in weekly installments.

I always thought that to be a writer you had to be a capable speller with a firm grasp of punctuation; a wise, someone ‘soaked in literature’, probably classic literature written by dead people. I wasn’t that. I was a girl who pretended her rubbish bin was a horse. My favourite book wasn’t Wuthering Heights, it was Looking for Alibrandi.

I didn’t know it at the time, but all those hours I spent with the wheelie bin I was actually teaching my brain to create narratives and characters, something invaluable to a writer.

I’ve also found dictionaries to be pretty useful.

Claire Zorn will lead ‘Dystopia Now’ and ‘A Matter of Survival’, two exciting sessions on Thursday 28 August as part of Melbourne Writers Festival Schools’ Program

Follow Claire @ClaireZorn