Recently we asked our Author, Robin John Morgan, for his take on his life as a writer. We know how seriously he takes his writing, but we are also very aware of his tongue in cheek approach to life, so we thought he would provide us with a thought provoking and light hearted look at his own life. We are happy to say he did not disappoint, have a read:
Being Simply a Writer. Written by Robin John Morgan for VCP.
I was asked if I would like to describe my point of view of life as a writer, it seemed a little odd at first, I thought, “Have they any idea what they are doing asking me?” Because in many ways I have no clue as to what most others writers feel like, and I am not entirely sure if I know. I pondered the point, and wondered if it is a feeling one gets with publication? Well if it is, it saw me coming and hid, I really have no idea, I am pretty much doing the same thing I always have, which is put one word after the other, and hope that it will make sense to someone.
I am often referred to as “Author,” but the thing is, I am not really that comfortable with the term, I have always seen other authors as special or sacred, of which I feel neither. I usually when asked, reply that I write for a living, I like that, it can imply many things, and it gets me out of the hole of having to then explain that I actually write books for a living. I think in many ways I am a bit of a closet author, but actually that suits me down to the ground, as it means I have space to simply do what I do, which is write, an act I see as a process whereby I convert vast quantities of Caffeine and Nicotine into legible words on a page. Being asked to describe my life as a writer for the purpose I assume of educating new writers, felt to me like an invasive operation at first, but as I sat back to consider things, I made what is my usual approach to everything that I write, which loosely put, meant I drank lots of coffee, grabbed a pad and made sufficient notes to act as some form of guide.
I felt I should at least ponder the point for a while before giving a commitment, and so after some thought, and lot of scribbling, I have put together the following in hope that it provides a little insight into my view of the world, whilst doing my best to flog a book or two along the way. I should add at this point, I see myself as just some bland and actually quite ordinary bloke whom like most of us, has lead a life filled with ups and downs. Women have never fainted at my feet, and I have never really been in step with the rest of the world, to put my life in a nut shell, I have made the very real choice of avoiding people, whilst watching them from a distance, in the vain hope of learning about humanity. I have published a few books, and I have one or two followers on facebook, so I think it’s safe to say I am nothing that special or out of the ordinary.
Since publishing my first book, which was a very surreal experience, which involved a great many terms I have never heard before, like “Interior” which I assumed was the inside of a house, but was happy to discover it was the term given to the actual writing in the form of pages. I have to admit I also encountered a lot of myths about writers, and I am happy to report that none of them fit me, so if there really is some sort of special person who becomes a writer, I think I managed to dodge that particular bullet.
What I do know about being a writer is that most people think my life is easy, in their minds, I rattle off a few words, back it in a cover, and hey presto I am a millionaire. Oh if only it was that easy, the sad truth is very far away from that fact, most people just laugh when I tell them this, as if I just made a ridiculous joke. I understand that I cannot talk for all writers, but I am sure a great many would agree with me, when I tell you that it is a bloody hard graft, and at times it can be soul destroying. I think it was Ernest Hemingway who once said, he would sit in front of the type writer and bleed.
Not only do I write, I also occasionally work with a few other writers, and for myself that provides the unique opportunity of being able to compare notes on how others approach their work. It is one aspect of my working life I find fascinating, as it does allow my curiosity to kick in, as I peep into another writers world, and make notes on how they work. It is startling at times to see how similar or how completely different we all approach the task of writing. This leads me to form the view that we all approach writing from a different perspective, and being me, I chose the isolationist and often more indifferent approach.
In most cases when I talk of writing, I tend to speak from the point of view of my own working practice, as I am obviously a well versed expert in my own approach. I have found my own little selection of comfy habits that allow me the time and space to isolate myself, and set too with the task in hand. I also find it easier to simply state my own journey from secret writer to author.
Most people appear quite surprised when I first talk openly about my own writing, which is actually quite rare, as the introverted part of me which is the writer, tends to shy away from being around too many people, but in a one on one situation, I tend to express myself better. They are really quite shocked when my opening response to their question is usually, “I wish I had never published anything, I was happy before then.” Odd as it may sound, writing makes me extremely tired and grumpy as I drain my brain at high speed onto the page, and when whatever piece I am working on is done, I collapse and sleep for several hours. Not writing makes me even more grumpy, because the plot is always in my head, I can be shopping when a great idea comes out of nowhere, but I am out in the middle of the street with no desk or computer, and that drives me frantic, as I have to keep a mantra going in my already crowded head to remember all the shopping, and the new addition to the story.
My wife has become a well-seasoned professional who notices as we chat that something completely unrelated to our conversation has suddenly popped into my head, and she sees the sudden change in me, and packs me off with a smile to my desk, knowing the urgency coursing through me as I have to write it down. Honestly at times it’s like a curse, have you any idea of what it is like to be at a party when your head explodes into life? It is really awkward as all you want to do is find a quiet spot to scribble stuff down. Most people find it rude when my eyes glaze over as I slip into my own little world, and I pull an idea apart and reconstruct it in my brain. I have been called aloof, a snob, ignorant and downright rude in the past, but they do not understand that is the level of conviction and dedication all writers have to the things they write about. It’s not our fault; we literally can never switch it off. You want to try living with all the characters I have created, having nervous breakdowns or getting into trouble and chatting away furiously in your head every second of every day. The story never sleeps, and sadly neither do I now I am up against deadlines.
I realise this can appear all bad and somewhat off putting, but it isn’t really, as like all things in life you adjust, and find your comfort zone in which to manage your writing life. I find being a writer also challenges me to be a better person. I think it is easy in ordinary life to make snap judgements about situations, events and people. I would even say that in my long life I have seen society change into something so different than the days of my youth, something maybe I would have missed had I not been reflecting on everything. I don’t think people are as kind or open as they used to be, and in many ways I think recent times has shown how closed off people have become from each other. The wonderful thing about being a writer is that I have begun to understand how every person and every event has a story behind it, and in many ways my view-points on life have changed as a result. I no longer rush to judge what I see at first light, I actually tend to look for a deeper understanding of why things are the way they are, and in your everyday life that can make a massive difference in the way in which I interact with everything.
I also feel that one of the greatest points of being a writer or a reader is that through the books we consume, we learn this art of looking on the ways others live or have lived in the past, and I feel from that we can gain a lot of insight into people and our own lives, which is great fuel for creation. I am now a part of that process, and I often sit back and reflect on life and its many wonderful attributes, some of which become parts of the stories I write.
Now I am not saying being a writer also makes me a better person, I still have the real ability to be an utter ass hat, but I do think that because I try to see the story in most things, it has helped me to be a more informed watcher of the world. I think I understand myself a lot better than I used to, and that has given me a little more inner peace, I think I deal with life better now than maybe I used to.
I came into publishing quite late in life compared to many other authors’, I think maybe I had to grow up a little first. I have always written things down, and created small stories in my head for the kids etc. I was a secret writer for years, and I loved it, I loved the process of creation and the freedom to play around with endless ideas that stretched the limits of my vast imagination. I still do, only now it is considered work, and where as before, well that was my way of having some alone time to keep my creativity well exercised. Don’t get me wrong I still love writing, I am not sure I could go a day without stringing some words together, it is as important to me as breathing, but the problem I find is that as soon as I publish, it all gets far too business like.
Back in those carefree days of a none published writer, all I had to do was write, today because of the way the world of books works, which by the way is so aggressive, not only do I have to write, but I have to do it to a deadline, and then once done, I am involved in so many different process’s that suddenly my writing takes a back seat to everything else, I really do not like or enjoy it.
Most writers struggle to get the word out, and contrary to popular belief, it is only writing royalty that get all the big promotional stuff to support them. Us mere mid to lower list writers, have to get out and about and do it ourselves, so instead of writing with all the time and freedom in the world as I used to, I have web pages to maintain, social media sites to update and keep fascinating, promotions for book sales, and a whole host of other tasks to do every day. It is a lot of work to do before I can even consider sitting quietly alone to put down my latest idea. It can be exhausting and very frustrating, and for myself it is not that much fun, especially considering I hate leaving my desk or the house.
The modern media world is not a place for introverts like myself, I am constantly told if I want book sales I must sell myself and dazzle, but the simple truth is, I don’t want to dazzle, and I am happy to not have photos of me plastered everywhere, I mean have you seen my face, who the hell is going to buy a book when they have seen that? I am sure there are many sparkling and dazzling writers in the world who bang on about the joys of life on twitter all day, posting details of their every movement, and I am thrilled they feel so at ease, but honestly that is not really who I am, I never was before and I am not sorry that I am still a tad dull in that respect. I absolutely hate the idea of sitting in a shop with a four by four foot picture of me on the wall behind me, just thinking about it makes me shudder, and want to hide under the bed.
I hate selling my book, yeah I know everyone tells me my attitude stinks, but honestly think about it. I hand a book to a person and say “here read this its brilliant,” how messed up is that? I wrote the dam thing, and if I am completely honest, I think it’s a bit cheeky and rude to do such a thing. People tell me I am old school and to modernise more, and maybe I am a little, but the way I see it, if someone who is not me hands a book to a person, and says “it’s a great book read it,” well that’s OK because they are recommending it based on their own enjoyment. I think it’s somewhat hypocritical to recommend my own book, I have no problems recommending another writers book, I have read it and enjoyed it, so I am honestly telling the person it’s worth the money, why does no one in the book industry understand this?
It is so hard to sell your own work, it puts me on the spot which is lethal, as I usually feel so ill at ease I shift into humour as a sort of survival mode, and I cannot lie, it has got me into a lot of trouble. I once had a customer ask me “what happens at the end of the book?” I mean come on, am I the only person alive who finds that to be a stupid question, seriously what writer living or dead would give away the final plot? My unappreciated response which I cannot deny amused me, and completely put the customer off was, “the words stop.”
It’s not me is it, that is funny?
In this particular case, obviously not, I suppose me laughing did not really improve the situation, as my wife looked on a little displeased with my efforts. I am honest about it, I don’t want to do it, all I want is to do the one thing I love, I want to be sat at my desk ploughing through the fields of my imagination, using it as the inspiration to make my next story even better than I planned in the first place.
The absolute worst things for me are all the sycophants. If I am absolutely honest when I am out and about and friends meet up with me, seriously people, you don’t have to buy the book or read it in order to know me. I am still me, I have not changed, I still wear my jeans and tee, I don’t shave nearly as often as I should, I am always going to be scruffy even if I was rich, and no I honestly don’t give a rats ass if you have read it or not. Don’t tell me you are going to buy it just to cheer me up, because I know you have absolutely no intention of doing so, honestly do you not think I will know when the weekly report shows nothing sold? I hate it, my life has become a long stream of embarrassed people who feel the need to impress me by committing to a purchase, I honestly only want people to read my books if they are genuinely interested in the kind of stories I write. The same goes for critics, honestly if you hate it toss in the bin, my interest is only in those who find the things I write about thrilling, your over bloated sense of self-importance is right at the bottom of my I don’t give a s..t list.
I tell all new writers I work with to ignore the critics, I cannot tell you how many times I have read something written about mine and other authors books, which was factually inaccurate to the point where I honestly wondered if they had read more than the books description. I have no idea why these people are so important, because if you look them up on google, you usually find more often than not, they have hardly any real writing experience, so why are they fit to judge something that can take years to perfect? Do not waste your time looking at them, look at the screen you write on, there is no such thing as a perfect writer, I find mistakes in every book I read, it is human nature and we all suffer from the same affliction.
It can be a fun experience though when that neighbour who has ignored you for years, and ignored you for reasons you will never truly understand, suddenly spots you and races over to smile and welcome you like you have always been their best friend. My wife and I see them and giggle, they rush over to ask how I am doing, and they always ask the same question, I actually wait for it, and say the very same words in my head as they speak it. “So what is like to be rich and famous now?”
I want to laugh hysterically. What is this myth that all writers are like JK Rowling or Dan Brown? It is a documented fact, look it up, ninety percent of writers do not even earn the minimum wage, most of us have a second income or working partners, hell if I add up my yearly income from writing, I could hardly afford a decent long weekend away in a good quality hotel.
So let me just set the record straight for those who do not understand, we write for no other reason than it is an affliction, seriously it’s like a limp or mumbling to yourself, we have no idea why we write. It’s certainly not for the money, we just do, it is in our DNA or something, I have never been able to explain why my brain has this massive overload of noise and words, it just has, and assembling them in some sort of cohesive pattern on paper gives me a momentary rest and a quietening of the traffic, that’s it, that is why I write.
If I was famous I would still be scruffy, the only real difference would be that more people would stop me and want to talk when I am in a hurry so everything would take me twice as long to do, and I would probably end up in some magazine as an example of how famous people let themselves go with age. Honestly I am not in hurry for that particular bus. Writing gives me great joy and I have absolutely no idea why, all I know is when I sit alone in the quieter moments of my day, and I tap away on the keys, something so magical happens it blows my mind. I get excited and filled with some sort of meditative euphoria. I lose track of everything as I hammer away, and all the pictures in my mind come into some sort of sharp focus, and that’s it, when I am done I collapse and sleep, and it is a deep contented happy sort of sleep that makes me feel wonderful. Honestly it is like a drug, in some cases I would say better than a drug, all I can say is I need it, and I want it, and I am as happy as can be when I am doing it, there really is no other way of explaining it.
Whatever this elusive trance like state I enter for long periods of some days is, I want to live there forever. I have sat for ten hours working and not even been aware of it, for me it is quite normal to work until late into the night, and yes I get tired, but not until that last line, and then it hits me. The following day I read through the previous night’s work, and I can honestly say, there are times I sit back with a satisfied smile and I think, “Where the hell did that come from, did I even write this?” I am sure there is some sort of magical word fairy that nips in whilst I sleep and enhances the stuff I write. It is a very odd sort of experience, and all I can say is that it is all down to the deep level of focus that washes over me when I write, because I can say without a doubt, when I write, I say things a hell of a lot smarter and with deeper meaning than I do in my normal moments of life, something I think my wife would be happy to confirm.
Much to the disappointment of all six of my adoring fans, I don’t write for you, I write for me, this is my story and written as I want it to be written, I am sorry if this crushes anyone, but it’s the truth, no one has a say, not even my wife, I work everything out alone, I write alone, I do the first edit alone, and then and only then does my wife get to see it. I know a couple of people who listen to the points of views of others, and I find it is not for me, I would advise all writers to close out others, and take no heed of their comments and views. I strongly believe you should only involve another party once the writing is done. I have worked with a beta group of readers, but I did it to hear their comments on the finished work, it was a great help as it gave me a deeper insight into the reader and how they view my work, and yes as a result I improved the way I wrote, but I never once allowed another living soul to dictate the story line, that I fear is a road to hell. After it is written, that is when I sit with my wife and work through the manuscript.
We both share the responsibility after that in cleaning it up because I am a lazy writer who makes about a million mistakes. To me, she is the queen of comma’s and speech marks, I miss hundreds, and she finds them and highlights them for me to add later. My only rule of writing is get it down as quickly as possible, then edit the shit out of it, and guess what, even then I still miss stuff? It really is impossible for me to proof read my own work, I think it is some sort of psychological thing, I know what’s coming, so my brain adds the missed words or full stops, and I simply do not notice I skipped them during writing.
At some point once you become a writer, everyone gives you their advice on how to write, which I find ironic, because everyone waited until I was actually published. A little advice before hand would have served a much better purpose, but once done they all came out of the woodwork, it was in my humble opinion a tad too late, the book was already out on the shelves, and there was not a great deal I could do to improve it at that point.
Believe me you will meet that person who will take a great deal of pleasure in pointing out your short comings, they will give you a kind word and then slap you in the face with comments such as, “I have read your book, it was a good read.” This is the compliment so wait for it, “Although… I am not sure I would have written it that way, your style is somewhat different.” I have learned to bite my tongue and smile, whilst imagining ripping off their head and using it for a football, but the sad truth is there will always be one or two ass hats who will try to put you down. It was about this time in my life after publishing, I encountered a term I have grown to despise. “The Craft.”
When people talk about the craft of writing I usually yawn and fall asleep, is it a craft? I have no idea, I simply know that when I read back what I have written, which is usually out loud, if it’s not right, I notice and make changes, if that’s a craft, then wonderful, I have the gift. I usually use a text to speech program on my computer, which reads my own writing back to me for editing purposes. I set it to a dull boring voice and believe me when you have written something wrong, it leaps out of the speakers at you, it’s a good tool that I have really come to love.
At this point, I should mention, I simply love writing. I got your ordinary everyday education in the 1970’s, which Ok I do consider to be of a higher standard than today, much to the disapproval of my teacher friends. I loved English and English Literature; they were my favourite subjects which finally makes sense to me now, as I have spent thirty five years working in horticulture before having a writing career today. I did want to be a journalist, but was told not to even try when I left school, as I was too fast a writer whom scribbled my illegible scrawled notes on stories across paper like a spider had raced through the ink pot. Like now, my mind had a habit of running off without me, which I now realise is my true passion about what I am doing, but back then a story that was filled with missing commas and words was not acceptable. I realise now that scribbling down is OK on a computer as later on it can be edited at leisure, but sadly there were no computers then, and so I took up working in the dirt, something I found involved a lot of research and working with plants, which is still applicable to scruffy writer me in the work I do now, writing about woodlands and trees and the magic within them.
I don’t see myself as complicated; although I am sure a few people I know would give a good counter argument on that. When writing I like to keep things as simple as possible, I like my work to be easy to follow, I like it to be a captivating and a straight forward read for the reader. I try not to concern myself with the views of other writers, in my opinion they have their way and I have mine, and never the twain shall meet. I believe with passion that communication is the greatest asset of humanity, and that writing is the greatest achievement of mankind. It is the simplest of things, and yet it is profound on many levels. I can take what is trapped inside my inner self, and use words on a page to convey that to another human being in a another country who I have never met. I can make them smile, or even make them cry; now tell me there is no such thing as magic? It has to be the greatest thing ever, and I have the joy of doing it on a daily basis, it is not a craft, it is a gift, and I for one am delighted to tell you all that every single one of us has the skills to do to.
I discovered the craft when joining an online forum for new writers, which was one of the tips recommended to me after I had published my first book. This site had lots of people talking shop, and I settled in to take it all in. One girl in particular was very young and offered a small piece to be critiqued, I read it and I enjoyed it. It was a little thin and needed a some padding out, but I felt it was worth working with and would in time be a nice little story, and I told her so, which really delighted her. She did confess she had been terrified of uploading it to the site, but I commended her bravery and told her to keep going. Suddenly, well let’s just say for politeness, this grumpy old badger came online and absolutely assassinated her piece. He tore it to shreds and banged on line after line about “The Craft.” I thought he was cruel and just plain nasty; it was not that bad a story, certainly compared to some of the other flowery drool I had read on the site. Her story was imaginative and inspired, but he just banged on about the standards of the writing craft, and for want of better words, he publicly crucified her.
He was wrong, his behaviour in my mind was just plain horrible and nasty. I messaged him to complain and tell him that he had gone overboard, and that her story had a lot of potential. OK I realise I am not schooled in modern writing, I have just developed my own way over time, people say I have a particular writing style, but to be honest I would not recognise it if it hit me in the face. I just write the only way I know how, and I may not be rich or famous, but I do have some fans who love what I write. I argued my point that writing has changed since Queen Victoria was on the throne, which ok, probably didn’t help us bond, but language is changing all the time, and the younger more modern writers embrace that, and I think it should be considered, we are far too quick these days to hoist the classic literature banner and disregard new work.
I love the classics, but just take a moment to look at how JK Rowling got panned by the critics, so did Dan Brown, and yet both of them have written books selling millions of copies. The way I see it they tapped into something at the time the rest of the book industry hadn’t, and it was that approach which made them the stars of modern literature they have become today. He completely disregarded my points and stuck to his mantra of the “Craft.” A lot of people today are leaving reading, modern technology has crept in with film, TV, and instant video channels, and maybe it is some of these young new writers who will invigorate the book world, I feel they should be encouraged, and as much as classic literature has its part, the literature of tomorrow will be completely different. Sadly my voice fell to the floor unheard as I was dismissed for not supporting the craft. Needless to say I left the site and any ideas of embracing this so called craft went right out of the window for me. Today I stick to what I know, which is very little, but it makes me and the few who read my work happy.
I came to writing alone, and after 43 years of my life usually writing all kinds of odd bits and bobs. I have had one story in my mind for a long time and made a huge pile of notes on it, so much so, I realised it had become a fire hazard, and if my house ever caught fire, I would be burnt to death in minutes. It made complete sense at the time to convert the huge mass of stacked hand written papers into digital documents, and hey guess what; when I had finished, suddenly I had like a whole other space by the wall for yet another bookcase. Being a little bit of an obsessive freak, I realised during the digital conversion of my stack, that it would be easier in the long run if it was all filed in some sort of organised and tidy way, and by the time I had finished, I had a book.
Disappointed aren’t you? Well sadly I did not set off to actually write the story in full, I just got carried away at a time when I needed to escape from reality, and it just so happened that it became my first manuscript. Holds hand up, “Hi I am an accidental author.”
I feel the shame and hang my head riddled with guilt. I wrote a book by accident, it was never some sort of challenge or goal, I knew I could write stuff, I had been doing it for years. The problem was this time I got caught, and sadly that person felt the need to tell everyone. I cannot put into words how reluctantly I handed over what I had written for them to read, seriously for a moment I considered wrestling them down and binding their mouth with tape. Absolutely no one knew, it was my hidden pleasure, and I never meant for anything to ever be read, but my gabby friend just had to tell the world, and then my dad. Have you any idea how hard it is to change the subject every time someone mentions reading to an avid reader like my dad? It was a nightmare, ducking and weaving, until finally he cornered me, and I had to hand the thing over to him so he could read it, I wanted to die on the spot.
That was when all the attention and hype started, all I wanted was to be left in peace, but oh no, they were obsessed. I had a constant stream of conversations on how I should publish. Well they weren’t exactly conversations, they were more one sided, them telling me to publish, and me trying to change the subject. Don’t get me wrong, I love authors, Tolkien, John Wyndham, H G Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Philip Pullman, all of them my absolute ideal of great writers, I just felt like I did not belong in their company, and I would rather have remained lost in a room somewhere else with my trusty old desk top PC. That is when it all started, everyone hassled me telling me “you must publish so I can buy it.”
Let me just clear the air at this point, as nice as it is to be told by everyone, “it’s a great book publish it and I will get a copy,” once again I would like to remind you all, that you are all actually very big liars. Is it like some secret trend to harass writers into doing something they don’t want to? I made a list of every person who promised to buy a copy, all two hundred and thirty one of them; I know I am a little weird like that. But in all honesty it does sort of play on your mind, or it did mine at the time, I started thinking wow this is unreal, if all these people want a book, then how many others might buy it? Listen to me now, “Do not do it, it’s a trap.”
By the time the first book came out, on launch week I sold fifty of them, yep just fifty; and hardly any of them to the people on the list, it was a good lesson to learn at that point. It is like a sickness, and I would say to anyone who wants to be a writer and put a book out, a lot of people will say they will buy it, but when you hold a copy in front of them you will get one of two responses, the first being “Oh dear I don’t have enough cash on me at the moment, can you get it online?” The second excuse which is by far the most used, “What I have to pay for it, I thought we were mates?” Everyone wants a copy, but no one wants to shell out money for it, my wife and I work on the assumption that out of every two hundred people who say they will buy a copy, only one will, and to date we are pretty accurate.
I blame the current obsession we have with celebrity culture, when confronted with an author, people go into some bizarre default setting that makes them smile a lot and make unrealistic promises in the hope that you will like them. I have one friend who introduces me as “His friend, the Author,” it used to be “hey guys this is Rob,” But sadly not anymore.
I find it a most peculiar phenomenon, it is almost like these people feel a strong desire to be liked by a famous person, the problem with that which they have not already stumbled on is very simple, ‘Most writers are just ordinary folks and not at all famous’ in truth we are a bit of a disappointment, although I do love the idea of some random women rushing home to boast about meeting me, and being confronted with a lot of confused family faces, who look at her like she is mad and say “Who the F**k is that?” followed by “Never heard of them” It does cheer my day. The truth is with over two million books published a year, there are one hell of a lot of us, we are not rich and we are certainly not famous, which is something I am currently quite happy about.
I sat and worked out, that if I take into account, all the places I have visited to photograph for my work, which I use to help me describe places, and all the books I have bought for my research, all the paper I have purchased for print outs, the heating of my home to write in, the electric used by the computer and lighting, and all the fuel I have burned up traveling around for research, I would easily need to sell well over one million books to even come close to breaking even. If I add to that all the man hours involved in the production of the books I write, and they were then charged at minimum wage rate, at my current selling rate I would need three hundred years to fully recover what I have invested in my writing life.
If you want to write for the money, by all means try, no one, not even the biggest publishers can predict what will and what won’t sell, and yes you may have a best seller inside you, no one will know till you do it. I personally believe that it should never ever be about the money, writing is not a way to stay afloat, it is a joy of hidden magic that lives inside you, and you can choose to release it into the world, or hide it away forever, it is up to you. What I can say is I have had equally as many days of wonder, as I have despair, and I am still doing it. It involves a lot of self-motivation; there have been days where I sat in bed staring at the cat, who was far more motivated than I was, although I hadn’t fed him at that point which explains a lot. I have days of endless frustration deleting a months’ worth of writing because I knew it was simply not good enough, and have started again from scratch. Writing on a bad day can be the equivalent of chewing dry sawdust, as the frustration to get it right builds inside me, I feel sorry for my wife who bless her tolerates my grumpiness as I walk around the house itching to write and unable to type a word.
The good days are glorious. It can come in the form of a wonderfully written piece, or a lovely email, a comment on social media, a sales report, or a good revue from a total stranger. I still get a buzz knowing someone I will never meet is so touched by some of my words; they feel the need to write something nice about my book, it really can lift your day, week or year. There are a few people who get very excited when they know I am about to release a new title, and it is wonderful to see their reaction and the excitement they feel, I really feel happy for them, and take great heart from it. There is no greater thrill than looking at the book case and seeing your own name on a spine and thinking, wow I actually did it, and those days have far more value than mere money.
By far the most joyous moments come when you are completely alone, walking free in your make believe word with people who are as well known to you as your best friends. I sit with the head phones on looking at the screen, with my mind ablaze with the images of my own creation, so lost in thought and focused, nothing can touch me as the magic surrounds me and holds me trance like in this theatre of joy. My mind, my heart and my soul join as one mixing with every experience and emotion I have ever had, and I smile as I tap away with my characters or cry the tears of their pain, no film can come close to the immersive experience of writing.
At this point I will add a very important health warning. You do get lost in space and time, and believe me you will not be aware of anything else, so when as happened with me, my eight year old daughter got up at two in the morning with tummy ache, and I was sat in the almost darkness of my room typing away lost to everything. I did not notice her pale white figure approach, until she touched my arm with her cold white hand. I do not jest when I state it was almost the last line I ever wrote, such was the terror that coursed into my heart filling it with fear and surprise. She scared the living hell out of me, which in turn scared the hell of her, as I leap straight up in the air with a scream of abject terror. So be advised writing can traumatise not only the author, but also their children. This is probably why I don’t write ghost stories, I feel it is taking far too big a risk, in what can already be a slightly risky situation.
I left my known profession to become a full time writer, most people thought I was insane at the time, and maybe I am, but there again I sit at my desk and write down all the day dreams that as a child I was told were bad for me, so I actually get to do it now for a living which is delightful. It was a huge step for me to walk into the unknown, and life took a downward step in comparison to before because of it, but I don’t think I will ever regret it. I am now fifty three years old and actually a lot happier than I have ever been. I will freely admit that I can juggle bills better than a circus clown juggles batons, but any idea of switching career now is unrealistic for me having done this for almost ten years. It has been suggested, but I love doing this too much, and there again, if I really do sit and think about it, what else can I do now at my age?
Writing suits me, I have always been a tad rebellious, and I have spent most of my life searching for some form of liveable peace and freedom, I just wish I had realised sooner that I have always had it. Most self-help books will tell you happiness and peace come from within, well I am living proof, as I look inside on a regular basis to find the materials I need to work with, and yes, after 35 years working in every kind of weather outdoors, I have found my small place of peace and happiness sat before a computer screen, inventing new worlds and new people, and then telling their story as only I know how. Life can be tough for millionaires, but I am not one, so if there are tough days for me too, I ride them out day dreaming until all the happier days come along.
So when I was asked what it is like to be writer, and after a great deal of thought, I feel it is safe to make the following statement compared to those I have observed in other professions. Being a writer is a simple life that suits me, and the truth is:
It doesn’t suck. 🙂
Robin John Morgan is a Husband, Father, and Author of the Heirs to the Kingdom series of fantasy adventure stories published through Violet Circle Publishing.