I wrote this in my newsletter last Friday, so you may have already read it. I don’t usually copy articles here from there, but this one is for all my readers.
I write to make the world a better place.
That sounds more than a bit corny, doesn’t it?
But in my own way, with the limited resources at my disposal and the limited reach I enjoy, I do what I can to make the world a better place.
For someone. A specific someone. You, for as long as it takes you to read a book of mine.
I write to entertain. I aim to entertain with loveable characters in a rollicking good story. And I always try to offer something deeper, as well as that surface entertainment.
So that’s why I write.
That’s why I write now. To make the world a better place if I can. But I didn’t start writing with that purpose.
I started writing to stay sane.
Here’s how it happened.
I’m an old man. I’ve been sick for a long time, and sometimes I feel older and sicker by the day.
I’m 58 actually, which probably isn’t so old in the real world. Unless you’re in your teens or something. But when you’ve had severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) for 24 years, it’s ancient.
Sorry. In a moany mood. As I mentioned the other day, I spent 6 outpatient hours in the eye hospital last Monday, and I’m still being battered from it. I’ll stop whining now and just tell you my story.
I enjoyed a long Royal Navy career until I caught ME* in a military hospital in 1991.
(*ME is an infectious neurological disease caused by a major viral attack on the central nervous system and an associated injury of the immune system.)
After the first 6 or 7 atom bomb exploding in my body months, it settled down so that I had it “Moderately” (although it didn’t seem so at the time, and no navy doctors knew enough about it to classify it as such anyway).
But after a few months more, my determination to get my career and my triathlete training back on track kicked me all the way into the “Severely Affected” category.
So. They invalided me out of the navy on a veteran’s medical pension in 1994, and my wife gave up her career to become my full time carer.
We became invisible people together.
You can probably imagine how that works. You may know from your own experience.
Looking back, I think it was harder on my wife than it was on me. All I had to deal with was my treacherous body in a world of pain, and my worries about not being an active father for our three little girls anymore. She had to do All The Things.
So I started writing to stay sane.
Treated it like I was training for a new career, which I half-believed might actually happen. This was the 90s, pre-internet (in our house anyway) so I learned everything from the How To books my wife brought home from the public library. I read them in bed. Back then I was about 98% bedbound. I’m still housebound these days, but now only in bed about 70% of my time.
Anyway. I started writing a novel, and finished it, and eventually it was contracted by a publisher. Took me 10 years to write that first one, mind. It was my apprenticeship book.
I now write a novel in a year when my health allows, but I never let myself get hidebound into promising anything like that in a contract, because ME loves to sneak up behind and kick my feet out from beneath me whenever I do that sort of thing. I hate letting people down.
So although I’ve had 7 novels published, I’m don’t think of myself as having a professional author’s career. I’m too ill. Can’t self-publish, because that’s running a demanding business. No chance. I just write what I love, when I can, and eventually a novel is ready to submit to a publisher. It’s a quiet sort of career, but I love it.
Last winter was my worst prolonged period of very bad health ever. Double pneumonia twice in 5 months, and in one of my nearly died again choking fits I blew my right retina to bits. By the time an eye specialist saw it, 5 weeks later, when I’d pulled through the pneumonia, it was in tatters.
The repair surgery failed, as we knew it probably would, so I’m blind in that eye. And now my left eye’s getting dark and scary too.
I’ll be honest. These past months I’ve been very scared about going blind. Until last Monday when I discovered I have cataracts in both eyes and there’s more surgery coming soon to fix that, so that at least in my left eye I’ll keep seeing.
While I’ve been dealing with all this fear, I’ve been thinking about why I write. And I’ve realised that my purpose now is very different to when I started.
I write for you. My readers.
Not only in my novels, but also in my newsletter and here on my blog. I write for you. I hope to make your world a better place, by entertaining and maybe by sharing something deeper too.
That’s it. That’s why I write.