I feel rather guilty that I’ve not updated my wonderful Kickstarter supporters, from whom I got £600 to do my bike tour of the Highlands, we well as the readers of my blog.
My guilty conscience says “you took their money and ran…You didn’t deliver on your Kickstarter promise: you didn’t write a book and you didn’t become a writer.”
My not-guilty conscience refutes this. He knows that I did cycle round the Highlands, I did promote my Tibet book (it’s almost sold out in fact), I wrote a new book (well, I wrote about 75% of a new one) and my writer’s block is a thing of the past.
It is true that I didn’t become a writer. I didn’t step into a special machine and emerge as a fully formed, highly-paid, internationally celebrated writer.
But I did take an all-important step towards becoming a writer. I overcame some of my internal blocks, hang-ups and insecurities; I worked out methods of dealing with procrastination, distraction, complacency and depression. I’m working out a balance between making a living (doing a “normal” job) and writing a bit every day. I’m getting into a routine that will result in more books.
This morning I got up at five in the morning – without an alarm clock – and spent an hour and a half on my latest book. When this happens it’s incredibly satisfying. I had a moment of inspiration and wrote this Tweet for anybody who, like me, is trying to find the right routine: Want to write a book? After 30 years of trying I realise the key is to get up at 5am.
Update from Yours Truly
I must tell you what happened to the book I wrote on my bike trip and what I plan next. This will help explain my gradual transformation from normal human being into a sleepwalking zombie – oops, I mean into a writer.
But first, I need to tell you a story.
For over two decades I’ve had writer’s block. I first wrote my Tibet memoir in 1989 but I couldn’t find a publisher and realised it needed to be rewritten. I taught myself journalism in the deluded belief that it would help me write better (it didn’t. It just turned me into a high class literary prostitute – a PR consultant). Twenty-five years went by before I rewrote the damn thing and now it’s thirty years later.
But the deed was done and last autumn 9 Months in Tibet was published. I realised the only way to flog copies was to do it myself so I cycled round the Highlands and asked everyone I met to buy a copy. It worked and the best thing is that I’ve been getting good reviews. If you click on the book’s web page you can see some of them.
Getting good feedback has been essential. It is hard evidence for my ruthless, negative, cynical bastard of an alter ego that I’m not a total failure and that some people actually like what I write.
But the most remarkable thing about getting my Tibet memoir published is that it has unblocked me as a writer and since getting it published I have written four books. I’m churning them out. My Tibet book was a blockage in my irrigation system – I needed to get it out of the way before the life-nourishing water could come through. And it’s pouring out. I’m churning them out so fast that I have new problems; how to finish them and get published?
This is what I’ve been writing:
- I wrote a short fairy tale called The Wind and the Castle and it is the most complete of these works-in-progress. I dare to say it’s a beautiful book and I was inspired to write it after reading a little known classic: Fairy Tales by Herman Hesse.
- When doing my bike trip I wrote some of a book I called Writing on a Bike – Observations from a dis-united Kingdom – a book that has changed totally since I conceived of it. I started off wanting to record people’s observations about an independent Scotland and the breakup of the UK, but people didn’t seem to want to talk about that. And it got boring just writing about my daily grind on the bike and so I made a foray into fiction. This will be a very different travel book and it is dedicated to my wonderful Kickstarter supporters, to whom I feel big debt of gratitude for getting me going on this new chapter in my life.
- In January I helped out a Dutch charity called Against Child Trafficking, wrote them a new website and a wee book called a History of Adoption. I also wrote a diary-type book called Trailer Trash which is about my work with this charity, what music I was listening to and quotes from books I was reading. I wrote it in the trailer (mobile home) I was living in at the time. JK Rowling also features. Coming soon!
So here we are, in early March 2017. I think I have finally found a balance between writing books (and articles like this) and working for a living. As I said in my Tweet, the key is to get up early and write a little bit every day. Each little bit soon builds up into a book. I have discovered a very productive side of myself – I can start writing a book quickly and get to the half way mark in no time – but my problem is getting it finished before starting another one. It’s not good having so many books on the go, but I’m just learning how to control this creativity.
Currently I’m based at my parents’ house in the Borders region of Scotland, near a wee village called Traquair. It’s beautiful. Ours is the only inhabited house in the landscape – in other words it’s in the middle of nowhere. One would have thought that being here would be ideal for finishing off my books but it’s actually really hard to write here as there is so much to do: yesterday I took my mother to hospital where she got her latest dose of chemotherapy; today I must take her an hour in the other direction where she does hyperbaric oxygen therapy; we have a team of Romanian builders doing some renovation work and any day now convoys of big trucks will appear with hundreds of tons of gravel to re-surface the drive. I seem to have become the organiser of these jobs.
Next Stop Nepal
In a couple of weeks I’m going to Nepal where I’ll visit my brother Moona, who is working on post-earthquake reconstruction projects. I will also do some trekking, mountain biking, give a talk about my Tibet book and write a series of articles based on my observations – such as what does the modern independent traveller do? I will also make time to finish off some of these books I’m working on.
In the next few days I will launch a new Kickstarter project to raise funds for my Nepal trip. But before doing that I felt the need to update those wonderful people who supported me on my first Kickstarter project. I want their blessing before moving on to the next appeal.
I may sound a overly sentimental when writing about my Kickstarter supporters. You could say it’s no big deal, people sponsor things all the time. But when it’s for a new way of life that I’m trying to work out – a kind of transformation of my life – it feels incredible that people are willing to buy into it. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. I feel a tremendous loyalty towards these people, more than I have felt towards anything I can remember.
The photo in this article was taken by me in the NW coast of Scotland, when I was cycling round promoting my Tibet book.