For a long time I had my own business in financial services – clients; nice suits; stripy ties. I also had a small voice inside me. “Let me out,” it cried. “I’m a writer.”
Occasionally I did let the small voice out. When the moon was full I crept away and performed stand-up comedy – and in early 2003 I started writing a newspaper column: a humorous look at family life from a Dad’s point of view. In 2006 I self-published the first three years of the columns as a book – Chronicles of a Desperate Dad. For one glorious three month period Desperate Dad was the 26th bestselling humour book in the UK. Self-published and self-promoting I was outselling some of the biggest names in the country.
But as anyone who’s published a book knows, producing it is only 2% of the battle. Promotion is 98% – and it’s never-ending. It had been a glorious adventure – but my clients were demanding my attention. I added two more stripy ties to my collection and went back to real life. I carried on writing the weekly column – but apart from that I kept the small voice firmly under lock and key.
Then, in October 2009, my brother died of cancer. I was asked to deliver the eulogy. Mike had been an Army officer. The crematorium was packed. Maybe 200 of his colleagues: stiff, formal, forbidding. My speech was light-hearted; affectionate; mostly about our childhood. The only time my nerves have nearly failed before a speech…
As we were leaving the crematorium an old man – still ramrod straight – approached me. “I was your brother’s first commanding officer,” he said. “Michael would have been proud.” And then he said the words which turned me into a full-time writer. “Reached the age where I go to a damn funeral every week. Best eulogy I’ve heard. Good man.”
And I realised I could write – and that it was time to do what I really wanted to do or forget about it for good. Six months later I sold the business, sent 16 stripy ties to the charity shop and started writing. If you want to talk to me about what’s now the day job it’s at SimpleWords – although the site is being upgraded at the moment, so all the details are also here.
The newspaper column? Twelve years and over 300,000 words later, it’s still going strong. And the latest column also appears on this blog every week. I hope you enjoy it.