Sunday, 29 July 2012

Earning the right to write

A year ago today, I uploaded my first book to Amazon. It went straight to number 1 and stayed there for several months. Since then, I have written another 7 books and number 8 is almost done. I have also written short stories and blogs as well as articles and poetry.

That is a lot of writing.

Among my friends online and indeed the fans of my books, I have garnered a bit of a reputation for prolific writing. That is not a bad thing as I love weaving the stories from the distant and unexplored recesses of my underused mind. It is my passion and my escape but there is a price to pay.

Let me explain.

I have a full time job. It can be stressful and has a lot of responsibility. My release is my writing. Each night I sit at my dining table, easing out the stories in my mind onto the virtual paper of my laptop. That's good, you may say and I agree, I am the first to type the cliche's 'just write' or 'black on white' to my writing friends online. I set demanding targets and strive to achieve them. But the thing is, it is so satisfying to sink into the make believe pages of my books, I have not realized that I am neglecting reality.

My children are grown up, so there are no issues there, I see my grandson every few days and my wife is very understanding, realizing that the benefits will be, (and indeed are) there for us all to enjoy. So what's the problem?

This week, I had a wake up call. An online acquaintance of mine called Jim, declared on his blog that he has less than 5 months to live.


I was shocked. I don't know Jim personally but we have crossed paths many times as we share the same writing world. The way he is handling this news is extraordinary and he wants to share his journey in case anyone else can benefit from what he is trying to do. Jim's blog can be found here.

The thing is, it stopped me in my tracks. Yes I want to write. I love writing and have sold a lot of books. Writing is hopefully going to give me and my wife a comfortable retirement.  But at what cost?

Over the last year I have put on two and a half stone. For my American friends, that is 35 pounds. I am a big bloke anyway, but my current lifestyle consists of sit at desk all day. Come home. Sleep, eat, sit at laptop all night.

In addition, though my wife is often in work during these times, when she is home, the pattern doesn't change and poor Jan, though she doesn't complain, is left with little attention while I create my own little universes.

How dare I?

Who do I think I am?

While I am absorbed in my self centered little world, ignoring the damage I am doing to my body and the neglect of my family life, there are people out there who would love to have the opportunities that I enjoy.

I have only to think of Jim and realize how lucky I am, and how he would appreciate the future I have before me.

So I have made a decision. Since last week, I have formed a new mantra. Before I sit at my laptop each night I am going to ask myself a question.

Today, have I earned the right to write?

Now, that could be anything as long as it is different from my day to day life.

It could be, a bike ride, eating healthily, helping Jan around the house, going down the pub with Jan, taking Evan to the park, walking the dog a bit further, hell even just mowing the lawn is okay. As long as it is outside of my daily schedule then it is in. I know that it is subjective but I intend to be hard on myself.

Life is not just about being successful at what you do, but is also about being healthy and happy. I am very lucky as I have a wonderful family and a fantastic wife.
In contrast, they have an overweight father who struggles up the stairs and a self obsessed husband who fails to see the damage he is doing to himself. That is entirely selfish of me.

However, my life is about to change. I need it to, I want it to. My writing should exist alongside quality home life and good health, not instead of it. My bike has been serviced and I have already started regular rides down to a nearby castle. (I have the butt pain to prove it)
The fridge is full of fruit, meals are healthy and planned in advance and I have already lost 6 pounds while eating like a king. I have also, however written ten thousand words of my next book so it proves that both lifestyles can exist side by side. In a very short space of time, I not only feel better physically but mentally as well.

So, if you are reading this Jim, thank you. There is nothing I can say to ease the situation you are in, but if it is in any way a consolation, you can take credit in one thing. You, sir, have opened my eyes. I will no longer take my life for granted and whenever it gets tough, I will remember the brave example you are setting.
I will still write my books, I will still strive to achieve the holy grail of full time writing but from here on in, it will not be the obsession it has been for the last 12 months. I am not getting any younger and life should be about living it to the full while you have the chance.

With immediate effect, I will EARN the right to write.