Monday, 13 July 2009

Writing Full Time in Your Spare Time Pt 1

Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a fighter pilot.* Which is a round about way of saying it’s been a long time (baby) - I’ve probably wanted to be a writer since I was 11, 12, so over fifteen years (Alright, no sniggering at the back, well over 15 years.) I don’t remember when I decided this, or even why. All I remember is that, like a lot of people, I wanted to write for Doctor Who. Probably wouldn’t say no now if the Moff called.

For a long time, there was one slight flaw in this masterplan: I didn’t actually do any actual writing. Then in my last year at uni I slipped a disc, and I was on the sick for a year after I left. I was bored, poor and immobile, so I started to write. I had an op, the DSS said I was fit for work (bastards!) so I got a summer job as a live in pot scrubber in an activity centre.

That was, er, an experience, ** so I wrote a script about it. It was my first vaguely - and I mean vaguely - coherent script. Then the DSS said I had to get a job (fascists!) So for the next 10 years I worked full time (In Littlewoods, then Index.)

I sort of vaguely planned to start writing in my holidays. I even occasionally dug out some of the scripts I’d written and thought hey, these are pretty good. (I was wrong.) I thought about writing, about being a writer, I even imagined I was a writer, but I never got round to any actual serious writing.

Then in 2005, I got made redundant. I was Management by then, I ’d been there ages, and I’d just got a raise, so I got a pretty decent redundancy settlement. Bottom line was, if I was careful with the money, I could get away with not working for 2 years. Good times, as the young people say.

This was my big opportunity. If I didn’t write now, then I was never going to. So I started to write. I built it up until I was regularly writing 45-50 hours a week. More if I had a deadline. People were impressed when I told them this, but I figured if I was capable of working silly hours for a company that would, frankly, sell me off for body parts if they could get away with, it then I could do it for myself.

Eventually, the bank decided that I didn’t have any money left (of course, we all know about there accounting practices now.) So I had to *shockhorror* get a job in the real world. I’d have to write, like most of us spec monkeys in my spare time.

So how’s that working out? Well I’ve already gone on too long, and as I worked till 4 AM last night I’m gonna do a little bit of proper writing then go for a nap. Part 2 to follow soon. Soon-ish.

*I also wanted to design the planes - I used to do elaborate drawings of made up planes with cool names like the Phantom and Lightning. These may be the names of actual planes, I’m a bit out of touch with the whole fighter plane scene. I used to have loads of model aeroplanes suspended from the ceiling (I know you‘re not supposed to, but I was a kid, sue me.) I used to spend hours making them with my Dad.
Then one day, I decided I was too old for model aeroplanes. So, rather than pack them up and put them in the loft, I chucked them out the window, one by one, to see them smash. For some reason, the memory of this really upsets me. It almost feels like my teenage self was smashing up little me’s toys, and makes me want to go back and give the skinny (!) little bastard a clip round the ear. (And while I’m at it, tell him to stop sulking and learn how to talk to girls.) Sorry, wandered a bit off topic there.
** don’t ask okay? Just don’t


Neil said...

Great post, dude. Looking forward to part 2. Sympathise with the shop work. I. Really. Do.

Jonathan Gill said...

Yeah, cool post.

Is it wrong to secretly wish for a a nice redundancy offer or a long, not-too-serious spell in hospital to get more writing time??