Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Writer's Life

When I started this blog, my aim was to share my love of crime fiction with others, and that remains the plan. Along the way, though, I've occasionally smuggled in a sub-text. I've always been fascinated by writers, and their lives, and I've read countless bios and autobiographies of authors, past and present. I thought that some readers might be interested to get a little insight into the working life of a mid-list author, someone who will never be the subject of a biography, but who loves writing as much as anyone could.

I have tried to show that, even if one is not a best-seller, or famous, the writing life can still provide a huge amount of pleasure, sometimes in unexpected ways (the fun of research trips, conventions and so on.) The fun side is central, not peripheral, and not simply self-indulgence (honest!)- job satisfaction is very, very important in any walk of life. I've also hoped that this might encourage one or two people who fancy the idea of writing, but are rather reticent about it. Not all of us can have our books on the telly, or the big screen (or piled high in WH Smiths, alas), but that's no reason not to give it a go. Better by far to write because you love writing than simply for the money. There's nothing wrong in travelling hopefully, even if one is not confident of the eventual destination.

The snag, of course, is that writing demands time and commitment, and morale can suffer, especially if a book is rejected or something else goes wrong - typically, when money is short. Most if not all writers have encountered set-backs, and I'm certainly no exception. It does sadden me when talented writers give up writing - and I've been around long enough to see it happen to quite a few good people. But I can understand it. When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a full-time writer. But once I achieved publication, and made friends with full-time writers, I realised that they often encounter pressures that can affect their work adversely, with unhappy and stressful results. This is why I've been reluctant to commit to writing full-time. I've also been incredibly lucky, in that I've had a good career as an employment lawyer, dealing with a fascinating subject and acting for clients, often for many years, whom I've liked a lot. Without the law, I'd not have done things like being given a personal behind the scenes tour of Wembley Stadium, sat in the directors' box for a Liverpool- Chelsea match played during a blizzard, taken part in meetings in Parliament, or spoken at a conference in beautiful Salzburg. The legal life hasn't only been a privilege, it has made a huge difference financially, and that in itself takes off some of the pressure from writing. The obvious drawback is that having a job, when one is very heavily committed to it, brings pressures and demands of its own, and they can interfere with one's writing and all the activities associated with writing..

At long last, though, I've made a big change. After serving thirty years as a partner in my firm (yep, you get less for murder...) I gave up my partnership three weeks ago. I work with a group of very nice people indeed, and as I still enjoy the law, I'm staying on as a consultant, working an average of a couple of days a week for a while to come. One massive benefit is that my commuting has been greatly reduced, and all that dead time sitting in hateful rush hour traffic jams on the Thelwall Viaduct or Runcorn Bridge can now be put to much better use. Regular readers of this blog will already know that, as part of my transition, I've been seeing a lot more of the world lately, which is lovely, and also helps to extend my range as a writer.

But will this make any fundamental difference to my writing career? That remains to be seen, but I must say that in recent times I've really felt liberated, and I'm optimistic and hopeful about the next year or two. I've certainly got the energy and enthusiasm to try to improve as a writer. All prizes are something of a lottery, I know, but winning the CWA Margery Allingham short story prize did feel like a sign that I'm doing the right thing at the right time, by focusing on the writing. As I continue my transition towards full-time writing, I'll continue to try to give a flavour of what it's like, in the hope that at least some of you will find these insights interesting and perhaps motivational. But the main focus will remain on general crime fiction and fact- and my next blog post will be another Forgotten Book...


10 comments:

lyn said...

Good luck with this next stage of your life, Martin.

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I'm very happy for you that you're making the changes in your life that you need to make. I wish you well as you move on.

Janet O'Kane said...

It sounds like you'll be getting the best of both worlds, Martin, and you deserve to. I just hope that your legal colleagues won't assume you are retiring! Best of luck with your new life.

Kacper said...

Many congratulations, Martin! I hope the future is very bright.

jiescribano said...

All the best in your new career path, Martin.

paulbeech said...

Martin, given the sustained excellence of your crime fiction over the years and the appeal of your Harry Devlin and Lake District mysteries, I believe you’re practically knocking on the door of big-time success, a best-selling author just waiting to happen. The heartening thing is your genuine passion for the genre and concern for good writing.

Yes, I think you’re right to regard the Allingham award as a good omen, as confirmation you’re doing the right thing in moving towards full-time writing.

Good luck and very best wishes,

Paul

BV Lawson said...

This sounds like a very sound move, Martin. Best wishes with your writing, and we hope to see and read more from you soon!

Deb said...

This is wonderful news! So happy for you--and hopes of contined success as a "full-time" writer.

Sarah said...

Very good news, Martin and I'm looking forward to reading what you write next. And congrats on the CWA award.

Martin Edwards said...

Thank you very much, everyone. I'm very grateful for your kind words, and I'm certainly hopeful that my writing will develop in a good way as I give it increasing focus.