"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.