Douglas continues his writing and reading for pleasure series for June 2016 with reflections on six years of writing and the future.
I woke this morning Wednesday 1st June 2016 at around 3.00am calm and fed up with my normal sleep patterns ruined by medication. Almost exactly six years ago, I woke in a cold sweat, while in France, fearful of those who were chasing me to death for something my parents or I had done in our lives. I started to compose a story and wrote it down as soon as first light came. I have not stopped writing stories since.
As I travel between restless sleep and dreams, I reflect on the last six years. The positives of writing a million draft words and creating structures for many story-books. I enjoy the mind stimulation in meeting other writers individually, in writer’s groups and at events and people in the book publication world. I also set up a website for marketing my own writing and a local writing group.
I mull over my mixed feelings about devoting so much time during the last six years to the lonely activity of writing at the expense of keeping up to date with family administration, family relationships and maintenance of home, car and friendships.
I have a picture showing man’s ancestors coming out of the sea and rising to great stature only to sink back in bad postures in front of computers. My daughter says if I had not spent so much time in front of my computer I would not be in the state I am in today. I do not accept all her wise words and everything she says!
Although I have enjoyed the writing side of being a writer, the self-editing, publishing, marketing and other related tasks have proved less positive.
I dream of having many years to finish my books and to get involved in the hard world of publishing and marketing. I dream again of being a bestselling writer with stalls on Reading Station full of my books and IngramSpark distributing my books worldwide.
I wake up and in the cold light of day see my alarm clock showing 9.00am. Coldly, I reflect on the reality of my current position. I have again, like many previous nights, been in bed for nine hours but only slept soundly for two at most. After getting up I can look forward to at most four hours of normal activity before a medication hangover catches up with me again for most of the afternoon when I often return to bed for more catch-up sleep. Evenings are restless when my concentration levels are low – my normal bedtime reading for an hour or so is now down to more like ten minutes. TV is mostly unsatisfying and I will leave the decisions on the EU (Brexit) to my children who perhaps may not even vote.
A strange positive is my dreams are even more vivid than in the first five years of my writing career. When I wake at various times in the night, I scribble the scenes down. Then in the morning, I find I can write the stories up without reference to my notes. The act of scribbling seems to have fixed the content of the dreams in my mind and I quickly get on a roll. This is a good thing because the scribbling is usually hard to decipher.
I have travelled this path before in 2013 to 2015, but then I stopped taking medication and soon felt my normal self and took natural substitutes. I said to my pharmacist, I thought I was now taking serious and not optional medication and he said, “yes … you cannot stop taking these.”
When I exchanged e-mails with Jeffrey Archer in 2012, he said he was writing like mad before ill health overtook him. Even though he is older than I am, he seems to be going strong while I may have fallen by the wayside.
A friend in his late sixties said to me he has made a list of things to do before he is 70. Based on my experience, this seems a very good idea. I have been highly amused to peruse books listing 1000 things to read, view or travel all over the world. The difficulty is that for the travelling one does need money that often only flows a little more freely later in life when it is too late. Perhaps children need to be given a list of a 1000 books to read when they are in their teens to stand any chance of reading 1000, with new publishing substitutes, by the time they reach 70 years. I have probably read over 1000 books in my lifetime.
I am not too downcast because I have managed to do most of the things I wanted to do in my life except those which are impractical or highly impossible. I have left my main character in my books (Henry Cross) to do these – fly like a bird, play cricket for England, build a new house from scratch, travel in time, all with some spicy decadence … a la John Betjeman’s dying wishes.
My father died when he was 70 of exactly the condition I am suffering from so I am grateful for modern techniques and even the horrible medication is giving me some additional years. I have enjoyed a good family life, music, holidays and events. I look back with pleasure at having flown on Concorde, seen a SR71 Blackbird and a Lightning fighter flying. I have shared the powered glider controls of my now deceased friend who was very safe, but I think may have been so concerned about losing his pilot’s licence, he did not go to his doctor soon enough. I have sailed 10,000 nautical miles in all but one of the oceans of the world and travelled as a tourist around the world. I have driven a steam locomotive and travelled on the footplate of another as well as a diesel.
Faced with less time to devote to writing, some things have already gone or are going, any desire to publish, marketing, reading other people’s web and blog posts. Reading print books is also much curtailed … so sorry Stephen King. On reflection, I have not read an e-book for well over a year and notice this may not be unique amongst readers. The slowness of my current reading is illustrated by my reading of a large volume of futuristic short stories by J G Ballard. All 1186 pages still only 82% through after a start in January. I would take this book to a desert island along with my eight discs – if I were ever asked.
Outside of keeping family life and friendships going, the one thing I want to do is to bring all my draft writing up to publishable standard, but I fear this may be beyond me now unless I can work much smarter and stop raising the bar on standards. I will continue to beta read writing friend’s draft books because this is mutually helpful to my own writing and theirs. If Mick is happy, I will continue with this monthly post albeit in less gloomy mode.
I may try to submit a couple of stories to competitions a year.
For those writers and others in good health and younger, I would recommend based on my experience doing what you want to do in life and writing soon and do not put it off.
New events and news outside my cocoon, which I have noticed, are:
- An HMRC attempt to tax adult colouring books as incomplete books. I did not realise that “incomplete books” are taxable. (Or, how one is defined.)
- According to one book retailer, buying a book has become a means of reflecting our personalities as well as enjoying a good read. Ho, ho what’s new I ask?
- Children are being bribed or incentivised to read by parents … surely this is doomed to failure. As one commentator said, rather than being able to define a lower sub plu-perfect particular clause or similar in a Stats test, being introduced to the first pages of several classic and current books may be more interesting and effective and light a fire of lifetime reading in children.
I am not sure what will be in my next TIPM post in July. Probably reflections of my usual annual time in France if we are both in good enough shape to travel – by the time I plan to go.
Douglas Burcham started writing on 1 June 2010 and self-published under the Allrighters’ name a book of short stories ‘Ywnwab!’ in September 2013. A million words of draft writing reached completion in January 2014 split between 900,000 words of fiction and 100,000 words of non-fiction. The latter being about writing and memories of buildings, trains, boats and planes. Since then slow progress continues to be made in the conversion of the draft words into final books ready for possible publishing under the Allrighters’ name.