Today on Facebook, an old school friend shared the above video, in which the late British philosopher, Alan Watts, in a gentle, fatherly and wonderfully mellifluous tone, makes a strong case for pursuing whatever activity we would desire if money was no object. This beguiling thought inevitably got me thinking about the dilemma faced by most first-time or would-be authors.
Most people I know seem to have, at one time or another, thought of writing a book. And while the flood of self-published e-books appearing on Amazon might suggest that an increasing number are now moving beyond the “thinking” stage, I wonder if we’re just seeing more of the iceberg that was always there, and that Amazon has merely raised the specific gravity of the sea in which that iceberg floats.
So why this reluctance to move from thought into action?
In my case, it was a combination of the following, that for 25 years conspired to keep Connected from being written:
- I don’t have the time and I can’t afford to stop working.
- Am I deluding myself? Do I even have what it takes to write a whole book?
- What if I invest all that time and people hate it?
- The suspicion, most eloquently articulated by the late, great, Christopher Hitchens, that while most people have a book inside them, “in most cases that’s where it should stay.”
- Everyone has a book in them – although as mentioned above, I’ve always found this baseless aphorism more negative than positive.
- Even if it never gets short-listed for the Man-Booker, mine will surely be no worse than half the drivel somehow finding shelf-space in the airport paperback aisles.
- And what if by some miracle of extreme providence, it somehow caught-on like Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code, or Shades of Gray? – None of which, rightly or wrongly, however compelling are ever likely to be confused with great literature.
- I had an experience while at university, which implanted a particularly vigorous and fertile seed in my young brain.
- I then found myself (20 years later) isolated in a cabin in the French Alps, with my laptop and sufficient motivation to bash out three draft chapters.
- Seven years after that, and with just sufficient funds to prevent starvation, an opportunity arose to take some time out from my career.
- With the exception perhaps of watching my two daughters grow up into intelligent, healthy, happy and resourceful young ladies, writing is by far the most rewarding activity in which I have ever engaged.
- With a relatively small change of priorities and sufficient motivation, there is actually far more time available to us – even while committed to a career – than we might think.
- Contrary to what we were told at school, you don’t need to have the whole story planned out before you start writing it.
- The best remedy for writer’s block is to just write the first thing that comes into my head and see where it leads. Sometimes I’ll be surprised at how the story appears to write itself.
- The more I write, the easier it becomes and the better I seem to get at it (though of course the readers of my next book will be the ultimate judge of this).
- The discipline of writing regularly seems to have enhanced the way I think, communicate, and perceive the world around me.
So should everyone pursue their dream as though money were no object?
I can only speak for myself, and as I’ve already admitted, I was extremely fortunate in my circumstances, but I know that I am currently happier and more fulfilled as a person, having written Connected. Would I still feel this way if the book had not reached tens of thousands of readers in a relatively short space of time, or been enjoyed by the increasing number kind enough to have left reviews on Amazon’s UK and US sites? Perhaps not.
Do I recommend giving up income and material wealth for even the slightest chance of fulfilling your dream?
In the words of Tim Jackson, Economist and brilliant TED lecturer:
People are being persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.
What do you think? Have you already faced this question? If so, which path did you take?