IF BOOK WRITING —GENERALLY SPEAKING—FAILS TO OFFER FAME, FORTUNE, OR SECURITY
WHEREIN LIES ITS APPEAL?
IT IS MY LIFE
I have stressed the downside of writing at such length—particularly in yesterday’s blog—that I woke, today, with a feeling that I should write something about the positive effects of book writing. I’m less concerned with redressing the balance than in clarifying my own ideas insofar as I can.
Given the disadvantages I have listed, surely there has to be an up-side?
Or am I insane
That is not as easy as it sound because I don’t really know with certainty why I love writing so much. Mostly, I accept the reality, give thanks, and go on from there. Where writing is concerned, I don’t spend much time being introspective about it.
I prefer to actually write. The reward lies in the doing.
Today, I’m going to try to be introspective and write. My main fear is that I won’t convey the pleasure of writing adequately. It is one of these things—like jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft—that you really have to do to understand.
Writing bears a certain resemblance to such an activity—without a parachute!
I can’t adequately justify it—but I love it so!
- CHEMISTRY. As with being in love (or lust), there is a great deal you can’t explain. You click with some people, but not with others. Writing was an imperative initially—as far as I was concerned—but a particularly troublesome mistress. I struggled. Over time I have fallen deeply in love and remain in that state. I continue to struggle—writing is never easy—but it has exceeded all my expectations by far—and continues to surprise and delight me. I am intrigued by it, passionate about it—and (somewhat to my surprise) faithful to it.
- CREATIVITY DEMANDS AN OUTLET. If you have an active, restless, intellectually curious mind, you feel you will virtually explode if don’t find an outlet. Writing, at least partially, resolves this issue. I say ‘partially,’ because unwritten stories creative their own pressure. But it is much better to have such ideas than not.
- IF YOU LOVE READING, WRITING IS A LOGICAL EXTENSION. Reading saved me from a particularly miserable early childhood—which included violence at home, and much bullying, and over a decade at boarding school—and represented escape and adventure. While I read, I was content—and I read all the time and virtually anywhere.
- PEOPLE NATURALLY GRAVITATE TOWARDS WHAT THEY ARE GOOD AT. I don’t recall displaying any talent for anything much while I was at my Irish boarding school—from the age of five to nine—except that I survived. Strangely enough, the academic side, once I learned to read, is a complete blank. I remember some of the teachers and the bullying—but not a single class. I must have had school reports but I can recall nothing about them. I have no idea whether I did well or badly. All I know is that at the age of nine I was removed from St. Gerard’s—which was based in Ireland—and send to Gilling Castle, the prep school belonging to the highly regarded Catholic public school, Ampleforth College. There, I quickly excelled—particularly in anything which involved writing. I fact, I ended up as the academic top of the school when I was twelve and moved on to Ampleforth’s middle school which was known as Junior House. Well, this isn’t the place for a detailed school history, but the point is that I showed an aptitude for writing at that early age. In fact, I wasn’t a bad poet back then—though it was prose that attracted me. Why didn’t I become a writer after I graduated from university?
- I felt I didn’t have enough experience of life.
- I wasn’t a good enough writer.
- The few writing jobs that were available paid badly.
- I didn’t have a mentor or any real connection to that world—and had no idea where to start.
- I wasn’t sure, at the time, that it was a realistic possibility.
- I was under great pressure from my mother to get a well paid job in business.
Despite all these factors, while still in my late twenties, in the end I gave up a well paid job in business in order to write. By any practical standards, it was an insane decision—because I went from relative financial security and comfort to a life of uncertainty—but it was the right decision for me.
- WRITING IS TAILOR-MADE TO LEAD TO ADVENTURES & EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. IT IS NEAR THE ULTIMATE DOOR OPENER. Subject to your finances and publishing arrangements, it is really up to you, the writer, to determine where and how you do your research, how long you will spend upon it, who you shall meet, and what you shall do. As a consequence, if you are prepared to exercise initiative, you will end up doing remarkable things and meeting extraordinary people. My kind of writing doesn’t guarantee it. But it makes it possible.
- WRITING CAN RESULT IN EXTRAORDINARY ACCESS. Such access is not guaranteed. It depends what you write and how you handle yourself—but it has worked this way as far as I have been concerned.
- WRITING GIVES YOU A VEHICLE FROM WHICH TO INVESTIGATE JUST ABOUT ANYTHING. Theoretically, anyone can investigate anything but, it is much easier to this if you have the cover of being a writer. Writers are expected to ask questions. Plumbers, for instance, are not (except about plumbing).
- WRITING ALLOWS YOU TO OPERATE WITHOUT THE NORMAL CONSTRAINTS OF A JOB—THOUGH AT THE PRICE OF SECURITY. Some may regard this a somewhat Faustian bargain. All I can say is that I regard getting though most of my adult life without having to adhere to the normal constraints and disciplines of a regular job as worth the price. Then, there is also the fact that job security is no longer what it was.
- WRITING ALLOWS A TRULY REMARKABLE DEGREE OF INDEPENDENCE. It is in the nature of life that one is strongly influenced—to the point of being conditioned—by one’s surroundings. When you are dependent upon an employer, this is hard to resist. I have largely been able to resist this situation.
- WRITING IS EXTRAORDINARILY THERAPEUTIC. When I started to write seriously, I found I couldn’t. First, I had to train my mind. Later, riddled with self-doubt as I was, I found it more struggle than anything else. More recently—though I still find it hard work—I regard the whole process as a privilege, a pleasure, and quite remarkably relaxing.
- WRITING YIELDS SIGNIFICANT HEALTH BENEFITS—AS FAR AS THE MIND IS CONCERNED. Writing involves constant exercise for one’s brain—with proportionate benefits. Whether writing is entirely good for you physically is another matter. Sitting at a computer all day is now known to be harmful. I’m trying to transition to being a writer who potters a lot.
- WRITING CAN COMMAND CONSIDERABLE RESPECT. Though I have stressed that more than a few people neither understand nor respect writers—unless the writer is clearly enjoying some degree of fame and financial success, others do respect the talent and commitment involved—and they are more likely to be the people you want to respect you in the first place. Personally, I have found the best door-opener to be a book. If I give someone a book the chances are the next time I meet them they will have become a friend.
- WRITING FEELS LIKE THE RIGHT THING FOR ME TO BE DOING. I guess most of us question our purpose in life at some stage or other. When things are tough, it is natural to wonder whether one shouldn’t be in another line of work. No matter how things are, I always come to the same conclusion. I’m doing what I am meant to be doing.
- WRITING CAN AND DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. I don’t want to overstress either the importance or significance of what my written words have accomplished over the decades. All I can say is that my words have made a difference in some rather serious ways in addition to helping some millions of people relax with one of my thrillers. I’m content with that—plus a little bit more I still intend to do.
- WRITING IS EXHILERATING. IT OFFERS A REMARKABLE DEGREE OF SUSTAINED INTELLECTUAL SATISFACTION. THE SHEER EFFORT RESULTS IN A ‘WRITER’S HIGH.’ It is a great thing to feel so good while working day after day after day—despite the inevitable stresses of life. As I have written before, it is a joyous feeling—and it endures.
Do all book writers feel this way? I doubt we do. We are a mixed bunch. Nonetheless, most of the writers I know personally love what we do and would be of this mind.
“We few, we happy few, we band of writers.”
With all due acknowledgement to William Shakespeare—who was very much one of us.
VOR words 1,474.