“Maybe I should be a writer, write a book and feel much brighter.
And share my thoughts with the world.”
‘Maybe’, The Wonder Stuff
A short spin this afternoon turned into what I call a Forrest Gump ride.
I head off without any particular route or destination in mind, take turns more or less at random and just Keep… On… Going…
Nearly 60 miles later and that adds up to over 100 miles this weekend and lots of thinking space for the big question on my mind just now: what next?
I have that beginning of term feeling. Remember that brand new exercise book you used to get each September at school?
The spine had a pleasing stiffness as you turned the cover for the first time. The freshness of that first lined page always seemed to invite promises: I will only write neatly in this book. I will not let the cover get scuffed or marked. I will not do rubbish work, doodle in the margin, rip out pages or in any other way cause my teacher to scrawl upon it in ugly red pen.
(Around this time, I was also heavily into The Wonder Stuff.)
I decided to take the summer off work when I was first diagnosed. Now I have been given a temporary reprieve, I’m allowing myself an anticipatory flutter about what to do with the rest of the year. And hopefully beyond.
I know I’m going back to work and that same old question has quickly re-surfaced, but now seems more urgent that ever: what do I really want to do?
I’ve been self-employed since I was 22, first providing freelance writing to newspapers and magazines, and then writing for charities.
Writing has been my passion at least since I was 13 when my parents bought me a typewriter for my birthday. (Remember typewriters? A bit like iPhones but heavier. And they didn’t take photos).
Like many small businesses, my life-passion grew into a modestly successful company while I ended up doing less and less of what I loved. Instead, I employed others to do the good stuff while I stressed about people management, contracts and paying the correct National Insurance Contributions.
By design, accident and recession the company eventually shrank again to just me. But I had morphed into a consultant and trainer, rather than the writer I always thought I would be. But it paid well, fed my ego and gave me an enviable work-life balance.
Like many, I made promises to go back to my passion. When I was done with all that big career stuff, there would be plenty of time to write later. I’d found a good place.
But suddenly there’s not so much time to play with. My diagnosis has challenged me to put up, or shut up.
I had already sent a book proposal on equal parenting to a few publishers when all this began. Maybe I could give that a spit and polish, and see where it leads.
Then again, I also have this idea for a book on a crazy Czech long-distance runner from the 50s called Emil Zatopek. That needs fleshing out too.
There are a few newspaper articles fermenting just now, maybe a comment piece or two if I find time to get my thoughts in order. Then, of course, there’s all this brain tumour stuff I could write about.
I don’t really remember what ‘being a writer’ entails. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make much of a living from it, but maybe I could try and make it work?
Kind words from readers of this blog, as well as my own satisfaction in writing it, have reminded me that I can write well if I put my mind to it.
And if not now, then when?
I’m not sure I have the guts.
There are bills to pay. Uncertainties about my medicines and health. Emotional challenges around every corner, some from the most unexpected of places. And writing can be pretty tough work, at times.
Then of course there’s the worry of starting a big project like a book, and not being able – not surviving – to complete it.
So maybe it’s best to go back to my old school ways, doodling and scribbling in that exercise book like I always did. Maybe I’ll go back to training and consultancy, because it’s a safe and comfortable habit that is hard to break.
Maybe I’ll do neither, and something else will come up.
Yet more Forrest Gump rides are required, it seems, before I can finally decide.
(If I do decide to be a writer, I hope I do a better job than Miles Hunt. Sorry Miles.)