"The reason I hadn't finished my novel was that I'd created a list of excuses as long as my arm preventing me from finishing my novel."
Ever since I was a boy, I’ve dreamed of being a novelist. I ground my parents down until they bought me an electric typewriter when I was about 11 years old so I could write a rip off Hardy Boys adventure yarn on it. Utter rubbish, I’m sure, and luckily no copies survive to tell the tale.
When I was about 15, I convinced my mother to buy me one of those writing courses that were always advertised in the newspaper in the late 1980s. It was a distance learning type thing – they sent you a load of books and set you writing exercises and you wrote them and got feedback on it. Needless to say, I was a 15 year old boy who had also discovered alcohol so I never did a single exercise. My mother has never let me forget the fact I got her to pay for this, only to put the books in a wardrobe and forget about it forever more.
Still, the writing urge was always there. I did a Creative Writing dissertation as part of my English Literature degree, then took a Creative Writing MA, always determined that I’d be a published novelist.
Then life happened. I needed a career, so set a business up with my partner. We got a dog and had two children. I started a novel, I even went away for a few ‘writer weekends’ to work on it, but in reality, I didn’t commit to it. It wasn’t really ‘living’ inside my mind, more pottering along with gout and a bad limp.
Then I blinked and woke up as a 40 year old man who still hadn’t written the book he’d always promised he’d write.
Turning 40 hit me hard, not because I cared about my age but because it signified the dream I’d given up on. A dream I hadn’t even acknowledged I’d sidelined until my 40th loomed like a shade crooking a bony finger at me.
At first, I made the usual excuses: work gets in the way, I have two children, I’m too busy, my fingers have fallen off. All nonsense. The reality, when I admitted it to myself, was hard to swallow. Nothing and nobody had robbed me of my dream. The reason I wasn’t a published author was because I hadn’t actually finished a novel. The reason I hadn’t finished my novel was that I’d created a list of excuses as long as my arm preventing me from finishing my novel. And around the Mobiüs strip I went.
Once I dispensed with my compelling, convincing and bogus list of things to blame, I realised that actually, I’d just silently given up on my novelist dreams to focus on ‘real life’, whatever that was. Because somehow, ‘real life’ was tangible and being a novelist was something that happened to other people. For me, my creative writing had almost become like a dirty secret I had to bury and hide from the world because I was embarrassed I hadn’t achieved it. Worse still, I’d stopped trying.
So I made myself a promise: either I’d stop feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t a published author and give up the dream, or I’d actually commit to finishing the novel I’d started writing more than a decade ago.
As soon as the ultimatum was set, I had no option. It took about 10 months from that point to get a finished first draft, juggling business and children and relationship and ‘real life’.
But here’s the thing: it was possible. Most things are if you want them enough.
My first novel Beat The Rain was a bestseller for my publisher and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards, Best Debut Author. My second novel, The Pursuit of Ordinary, was released on 27 April 2018 and has just been long listed for the People’s Book Awards 2018.