Writing is better than sex

Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her
Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her

Earlier this week, a fellow writer chap I met on twitter gave me a piece of advice that, quite frankly, gave me the heebie-jeebies. ‘To succeed as an author,’ he told me, ‘you need to prefer writing to sex’.

‘You’re joking?’ I replied. Surely no one in his or her right mind prefers writing to sex?

‘Nope,’ he told me, ‘I’m not joking. Writing is my life. I perk up when I develop a good plot, I get excited when my characters interact and I practically orgasm when I spin a great twist.’

My first reaction was to get straight onto twitter and unfollow the weirdo. Block, block, block!

But just as I was about to hit that blue button, I had a thought. What if he’s right? What if all successful authors shun the bedroom in favour of the study? Maybe they really do prefer alliteration to allure, epithets to erogenous zones, foreshadowing to foreplay, imagery to intercourse. sucking their pen to sucking… I’d better stop there.

Authors can be pretty solitary, selfish characters, right? They are slaves to their keyboards for days on end. I have read countless stories about writing widows and widowers. My twitter friend must be right. If you want to make it as an author, you have to love writing more than you love sex.

love typing

Coming around to my friend’s way of thinking was a thoroughly depressing experience. Instantly, I thought I might as well chuck my laptop out of the study window, dust off my CV and get myself a proper job. Being a red-blooded male, I haven’t got the love it takes to become a successful author.

Or have I?

As I was trying to find the key to undo my study window lock, another thought took hold. I really do love writing. I might even be able to convince myself that it is better than sex.

  • Writing lasts longer than sex. I have been known to write for eight hours in one stretch. Making sex last for eight minutes would be an achievement worth celebrating.
  • I can write more than twice a day without fear of letting myself down. You’ll forgive me if I don’t dwell on the comparison here.
  • People pay me for my writing.
  • I enjoy making people laugh. I occasionally manage it through my writing. If someone laughed at me during sex, I’d probably get a complex.
  • I’ll be able to show my grandchildren my books on Amazon…

Hold the bestsellers list, there’s hope for me yet!

And now for some real news…

Six Lies cover screen

My second novel, Six Lies, is being released by SliverWood Books on 23rd November.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has asked if they can convert my debut romp, Six Months to Get a Life, into a talking book for those with sight impairments and unable to access normal print and online books. They normally only convert bestsellers. It’s a real honour to be asked and a thrill to be able to give something back to such a large community. I can’t wait to hear the narration.

My third book, the one set in a primary school, is the reason I haven’t updated this blog as often as I should have done. I’m utterly obsessed with it and can’t put it down. I’d almost go as far as to say writing it is better than…

Happy writing!

Ben

I’ve been a full-time writer for two months now and…

dog writing

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now will know that, at the end of April, I gave up ‘work’ to become a full-time author.

The last couple of months have been really busy for me. I have been meaning to reflect upon my experience but, ironically, I have struggled to find the time. Now that my second book, Six Lies, is with my editor, I have suddenly got a bit more space to reflect upon my decision. Hence this blog.

Has my decision been the right one for me? Well, to answer that question, let me revisit the hopes and fears that preoccupied my mind as, with some trepidation, I took my resignation letter up to our HR department a few months ago.

My main reason for resigning from my day job was the pull of writing. After penning my first book in the early mornings and late evenings of 2014, I wanted to give myself the space to write more often, and for longer. With work and my boys keeping me busy, I was struggling to fully immerse myself in my characters. My writing was lagging behind my ideas.

In the two months since I have been a full-time writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of being master of my own destiny. My routine has been to start tapping away at my keyboard once the boys head off to school, and then to carry on until either my concentration begins to wain or my German Shepherd, Albus, deposits his rugby ball on my brand new laptop. If I am lucky, I can write until lunchtime. I then have a break and walk the dog, before going back to writing, or possibly editing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Albus

I have been quite productive in the last couple of months. Six Lies is now complete in draft form. My editor is hopefully reading it as I type. My aim is to work on her comments before we jet off to Turkey for a not particularly well-earned but nevertheless much looked forward-to holiday towards the end of August.

Had I still been fitting my writing around my work life, I would never have finished Six Lies so soon. It wouldn’t have been as good either. The best thing about being a writer is immersing yourself for hours on end in the minds of the characters you are creating. Writing full-time gives me the space to do that.

My main fear about giving up my day job, the fear that physically made my hand shake as I handed my note to Minal from HR, was that I would find the writer’s life too solitary. I am a sociable person and love debating the merits of Dan’s latest beard trim or Rebecca’s latest board report (quick double-check I got the names the right way round) at the tea point.

It is early days yet, but, at the moment I can safely say I am loving my new life. Before I gave up my job, I did muse about ruses like writing in coffee shops full of people to break up the monotony, or travelling with my laptop to friends’ houses and writing with them while they work from home. But, if truth be told, I haven’t needed to go down that route. Writing isn’t lonely. It’s completely fulfilling.

You can’t get lonely when you are in your characters’ heads. You can’t get lonely when you’ve got a TV crew filming you for a documentary about loneliness. You can’t get lonely when you are training for a 100+ KM walk. You can’t get lonely when the cricket’s on (you can’t get much work done either, mind). You can’t get lonely when you have tried internet dating for the first time and you have met… Actually, I’ll keep that one to myself for the time being.

Now that my second book is in someone else’s hands, I might begin to think differently about my routine. I need to keep up the momentum in my writing journey. I need to develop my author platform (yawn). I need to get out there and sell myself (gulp, I’m off to a champagne reception in Knightsbridge in a couple of weeks). I need to write more Huffpost blogs. This stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me as the novel writing, so it will take more effort. Will it keep me interested until my holiday, or will I begin to miss the human contact when I am slaving away? Only time will tell.

The other obvious fear I had when I was on the sixth floor of my Smith Square office clutching my life-changing letter was that I was throwing away a reliable and undeservingly high salary in pursuit of my dream. In common with Greece , my long-term economic prospects were uncertain.

To be frank, my finances are still uncertain. My first novel, Six Months to Get a Life, is receiving great reviews. Chick Lit Central loved it when they read it. But, no matter how hard you look, you won’t as yet find my name on the best-sellers list.

When I gave up my job, I vowed to give my dream every chance of succeeding and not to bottle it and get another job too soon. I am resolutely sticking to that plan. When I am back from my holiday, I intend to start work on a third book. My second book will be published in December. I will throw all I have (the kitchen sink, the dog and my limited imagination) at publicising my work. Hopefully, I will be able to coincide publication with the airing of the BBC documentary but we shall see.

Then in the new year, I will take stock. If my sales haven’t increased to a financially sustainable level, I will either sell a child or look for a new job. I may even do both. If I have to take up paid employment again, I won’t consider the whole experience to have been a waste of time. I will feel proud of myself for pursuing my dreams. As they say, you regret what you don’t do more than what you do do (they put it much more eloquently than that, but that’s the best I can do before breakfast).

Other things that have changed since I quit my day-job:

  • My lunches. I eat far less over-priced sandwiches and far more salad-based stuff. I do drink more coffee though. The post-lunch graveyard shift would quickly turn into an afternoon nap if it wasn’t for my fancy coffee machine.
  • I eat breakfast, or at least a mid-morning snack. I could never manage breakfast before the morning commute.
  • I am spending a fortune on dog treats to keep Albus from distracting me.
  • I have knocked my eldest son off the top spot in my dog’s affections.
  • I am getting a suntan. There is nothing quite like having lunch in the garden.
  • My kids hate not being able to come home from school and raid the fridge ‘without me knowing’.
  • I haven’t polished my shoes for two months.
  • I am forgetting the art of looking busy when really I’m just not. Or maybe that’s what this blog’s all about…

Happy days!

Ben

Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

I love writing.

When I’m writing a new book, which is pretty much all of the time, I get obsessed with my characters. I take them to bed with me. I wake up with them too. It’s like having a wife but without the sex. On second thoughts, it’s like having a wife.

I’m so in love with writing but I hate the fact that I have to fit it in around other inconveniences like my day job, life admin and my children. OK, maybe the children aren’t that much of an inconvenience. Give them a bottle of cider and the Xbox and they’re happy.

My day job is such an inconvenience. Would you believe it, I have to be there all day. Whose idea was that?

Work pays the bills, but it doesn’t satisfy my writing addiction. It isn’t where I want to be.

I am seriously considering becoming a full-time author. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be a rational decision. My first book is doing well but it has only been on sale for a month. Never mind paying the mortgage, my income from my writing is barely enough to pay the milkman yet.

But my heart keeps beating faster than my head can shake. Why should I let practicalities like shelter and food stop me from pursuing my dream? They say you’ve got to be single-minded to be an author, right?

I would love to be able to write when I want to write, rather than when the kids are in bed or when the boss isn’t looking. (If my boss is reading this, then obviously the last aside was an example of my ‘creative writing’ skills).

But could I write all day? What would being a full-time author feel like? Would steam surge from my laptop keyboard as I knock out novel after novel? Or would I get bored with my own company, want to murder the daytime radio presenters for endlessly repeating themselves and be off down the pub by lunchtime?

There was only one way to find out.

Last week, I booked the week off work, cleared my diary and packed my boys off on a ski trip to Italy with their school mates. The dog and I had the house to ourselves. My aim was to significantly progress my second book, ‘Six Lies’.

This is how I got on.

Friday

Saw the boys off on their ski-ing trip, went to the pub after work to celebrate my week off and came home via the chip shop. Incapable of writing. Number of words written: 0.

Saturday

I can’t be creative with a hangover. Watched the rugby, checked latest sales figures for Six Months to Get a Life on Amazon and shunned Valentine’s Day in favour of Match of the Day. The FA Cup provided me with all the romance I needed. Number of words written: 0.

Sunday

Went for breakfast in Raynes Park with a friend. We arrived too late for breakfast so had lunch instead. Took the dog for a walk. Cooked a chilli. Checked book sales. Number of words written: 0.

Monday

Wrote during the morning, with short stops for putting the washing on, taking the dog out, eating everything I could find in the fridge and checking for new reviews of my book on Amazon. Got a couple of good lines in, including ‘your forehand is better than your foreplay’. Met another author via twitter. Ended up buying and reading her book. Thoroughly entertaining and highly distracting. A good day, finished off with a few pints in the Earl Beatty with the best man at my wedding. At least I’m still talking to him. Number of words written: 700.

Tuesday

Took the dog to have his balls cut off. His creative juices will never flow again. If it’s any consolation Albus, mine didn’t flow today either. Instead, I read the rest of ‘Being Sarah Chilton’. Very funny. Number of words written: 400, approximately 50 of which were spelt wrongly on account of my errant laptop’s habit of not registering random key impressions. Ggggrrrrrr.

Wednesday

Had to stop the dog licking his wounds all day. Eventually, gave him to my ex and went to meet friends in North London. Number of words written: 27.

Thursday

It is impossible to write with a hangover. Recovered, and went to meet another friend to give him a signed copy of Six Months to Get a Life for him to give away as a raffle prize in his work raffle. Number of words written: 0.

Friday

Started training for this summer’s British Heart Foundation charity London to Brighton walk. Trudged 15 miles through the Surrey countryside, followed by a few pints in the pub. Staggered home (dodgy hamstring / dodgy pint). Number of words written: 400, but they were all drunken emails that I should probably not have sent.

Saturday

The boys came home.

What have I learnt from my experiment? Being a full-time author is going to be good fun, but don’t expect my productivity to go up very much.

Update on Six Months to Get a Life

My debut contemporary fiction / romance novel is keeping me smiling. The reviews have continued to flood in. And as an added bonus, most of them are positive too.