Twenty one years ago, when I was 25 – yeh I see the smoke coming out of your ears as you do the maths – a good friend from University was killed in an air crash. She was lively, fun and when we graduated – in the middle of a deep recession – she was one of the few people I knew (I was the other one) who didn’t carry on and do a Masters Degree (no chance of a job so I may as well get another qualification) or just take one look at the job market and do law. Never one to conform, was Sharon, she started to design and make jewellery, instead. I signed on as a temp with a firm of contract cleaners – not quite in the same league. You can see who had the get up and go there can’t you, phnark, but I digress.
Her death had a profound effect on me.
When I heard about the air crash I knew I was going to have known one of the victims. It was almost with a sense of inevitability that I read the huge profile about her in the Times, as one of the most poignant losses. I never got to say goodbye to her. I spent her funeral stuck in a traffic jam on the M6. I got to the wake, spent 20 minutes apologising to her parents for not being there and drove back to London, never to see them again.
But even now, I think about her a lot. I doubt there’s a week goes by when I don’t. I also think about two other friends I lost recently, one of whom was just 60 and the other of whom was a year younger than me. In conjunction with Sharon, I also remember one of my Grandfathers. He died a few years before she did but at the end when he was living in a home, he talked a lot, and with urgency, about a friend of his who’d died when they were both 25. My Grandfather said how he still missed his friend and I remember thinking how deeply it must have affected him and later, when Sharon died in my 25th year, that it was almost as if he knew.
And why am I talking about this cheery subject on the day I launch my book?
Well, because I’ve just been reading this post here, and while I was reading it, a few ideas that have been scattered about my brain finally came together. Because quite a few people have asked me, recently, how come I just do stuff, like writing books. When I answer that it’s impossible for me not to it raises the question, what’s driving me on? After all, I can’t produce books fast enough to be viable to a publisher. I don’t know anyone in the publishing industry either. Commercially, I’m flogging a dead horse. My answer is always, because I have to but I think in some weird way, I’m also doing it for my lost friends. It’s as if I have to live a fuller and more vibrant life for their sakes, in a celebration of who they were and because they no longer have the chance.
I guess we all think we’re going to live forever. And there’s nothing like somebody one’s own age dying to give one a cold slap in the face with reality. We’re not. So I do stuff, because I want to do it before I, too, shuffle off my mortal coil and I do it NOW because tomorrow may be too late, as I have seen from the experience of my friends.
That’s why I keep writing when there’s little commercial point. Why I spent a good 13 years trying to work out how to write a book and why I spent another six chipping away at the K’Barthan Trilogy. I also believe I should make the best job of my work that I possibly can. That’s why I’ve spent ages agonising over each word, splurged on editors, pestered kindly souls to beta read it and bought fabulous covers (well I think they are).
Today’s piece of sage advice, then, is this.
Follow your dreams peps. Do it for yourself and for the people who can’t. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Take life by the bollocks and run with it. Find something you want to do and do it. If you can’t find something you want to do have fun trying out the things you might want to do. Don’t wait for the right time to start. The time will never be right, it’s not in the nature of life. Don’t wait for a future you have no guarantee of seeing. The only way to make your dream come true is to take that first step. Just begin.
And trust me all that time eating snail and tortoise dust will be worth it for this moment, when you know that it’s done. And it feels… amazing. Really. Trust me. You want some of this. Make a start.
Oh… and did I tell you I had a book out today? More on that story, and links to buy, here.
Or buy it on Amazon here