“The negative effects of combat were nightmares, and I'd get jumpy around certain noises and stuff, but you'd have that after a car accident or a bad divorce. Life's filled with trauma. You don't need to go to war to find it; it's going to find you. We all deal with it, and the effects go away after awhile. At least they did for me.”
ACTION AND RECTION. I though seriously of becoming a professional photographer—and a combat photographer at that—and did a few assignments which I thoroughly enjoyed. In the process I nearly got killed on several occasions—which was educational. I found that the periods of danger I handled myself pretty well—but afterwards a stress reaction would set in. The nature of the reaction varied with the most extreme being uncontrollable shaking after a policeman was shot dead beside me in Belfast. At the time, I scarcely reacted and I stayed out for hours to experience the gunfight. .
I got the shakes the following day when BBC played some audio if the previous night’s gunfight in the bar. The whole thing came back to me—and though I was safe and sound in the Europa Hotel with an Old Fashioned at hand, I was suddenly terrified.Incidentally, the Europa then had the distinction of being the most bombed hotel in Belfast. When I stayed in it, something like 28 attempts had been made on it.
FIRST LOVE. But it wasn’t the danger that made me choose another path. It was the realization that if I was going to be creative, writing was my first love. Beyond that, I figured it would take all my effort to become a proficient writer so there wouldn’t be time to combine the two. How right I was.
WRITING DEMAND EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT—AND MORE. Book writing is not a trivial business. It can take years to get a book right—insofar as you ever do—and if those years are at the beginning, that means you don’t have any income. Later, if you are lucky enough to get published, there is no guarantee you’ll continue to get published. Publishers—subject to a few exceptions—have about the same amount of integrity as bankers. No, maybe not as much.
INDEPENDENCE IS A WONDERFUL THING. The fact that writers can now bypass traditional publishers—and self-publish independently—is a great and wonderful thing. It complicates a writer’s life in many ways because there are so many extra skills to master—but at least you get a chance to control your own destiny (insofar as one ever can).