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What the hell! It’s all material
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Anonymous asked Victor O'Reilly:
Your experiences are diverse and I just want to know if you think these prepared you for a successful career in writing.
This is a more complex question than it seems--which makes it even more fun to answer. But, I think I need my morning tea first. I don't routinely have any breakfast these days--I normally eat only one meal a day and seem to be thriving on it--but without three mugs of tea spread out over the first couple of hours, I'm a lost cause.
That said, I have a habit of writing--even before my tea--because I tend to wake up wanting to write--and, once I am started, am reluctant to stop. This isn't a completely good thing because it is not good to sit too long. I try and move every 20 minutes or so--even it is only to pace about the room--but I find it hard to tear myself away if the words are flowing (which they normally are). Mostly, I know what I want to write before I get up--though, in this case, this question has become my priority. Let me add that it wouldn't if I was working on a book--but right now I am between books (inasmuch as one ever is). Also, it is an intriguing question.
In truth, since I think about writing for a very great deal of my waking day, I am never 'between books' in the complete sense of the phrase. I would feel lost if I was.
I don't think you have to have a diverse range of interests in order to be a good writer. Some people seem to live fairly narrow, focused lives--certainly by today's standards--yet write extraordinarily well. Jane Austin immediately comes to mind in that regard. However, appearances can be deceptive. Jane Austen certainly had a more complex mind than her reported lifestyle might suggest. Accordingly, what might appear like a simple lifestyle based upon relatively narrow interests may be compensated for by a writer's powers of observation, empathy, ability to understand nuance, and sheer talent at utilizing the English language. A diversity of understanding may well rival a diversity of interests. I aspire to both--though certainly don't succeed as well as I would like. But writing is about living with failure--a very special kind of failure--because one rarely writes quite as well as one would wish.
Perversely, if one does, the next action, as far as the truly dedicated writer is concerned, is to raise the bar.
Though I spend a great deal of time getting into the minds of my characters and writing about the human condition, I am often struck by the fact that, in the final analysis, we can never really know exactly what another person is thinking--let alone how they think. We only know what they communicate--both voluntarily and involuntarily--but that may be very far from the reality. In this case, I am merely conveying my thoughts on the matter--and, indirectly, my admiration for Jane Austen. She is one of my favorite authors.
Where I am concerned, I craved adventure and a diversity of experience from an early age largely so I could escape mentally from an unhappy childhood, and being sent to boarding school years ahead of when would have been appropriate.
Add in intellectual curiosity and the process fed upon itself--and continues to do so. Without doubt--in my particular case--it has served me exceptionally well from a writing point of view.
Since I have a tendency to think holistically, I don't see my diversity of interests as being as diverse as they appear. For instance, my commercial experiences as a consultant (which were diverse enough in themselves) all involved investigation, problem-solving--preferably in a creative manner. Investigation is what we writers call research.
Where my military and economic interests are concerned, I am strongly of the view that the two areas are interrelated--and that the world would be a better place if the relationship between the two was better understood.
All in all, whatever about writing, I believe with some passion that a well-rounded, civilized human being is better served by a diversity of interests. I wish, for instances, that I had paid more attention to physical skills in addition to focusing on the intellectual. And my interest in sports could be stored in a thimble.
Thank you for the question.
I am now off to steer a genuine WW II jeep for quite some distance while it is being towed for repair. I have been asked to do this without making much use of the brakes. Quite how I am going to this without running into the vehicle in front is a good question. It is a short tow-rope.
But, I have great admiration for the jeep as a vehicle--and for its owner, an old friend of mine--and find it hard to turn down yet another adventure.
Time for a second mug of tea first.