Writer on a Train: The Choice We Made


Today’s journey is from the University of Derby to my in-laws house in Yorkshire. Today, my bike is a pain. I have twisted my knee, kneeling on the bed yesterday and rotating the poor thing in a way nobody over 40 should attempt. My bike wouldn’t fit on the lift at the uni, which meant I had to lug saddle, helmet, battery and panniers up to the third floor. When I was finally ready to ride back to the station, it started to rain. You know, that kind of experience.

 But I have an anorak I actually like wearing and the brick of the pedestrianised centre of Derby makes a very nice sound under my wheels and I got to ride through a park and past some lovely medieval buildings and a really beautiful old wisteria vine… for a moment I felt sorry for people who were trapped in their cars.

 Then it rained a bit harder. And then it started to hail. Hail pinged off my helmet. Water dripped off my nose. My legs started getting wet. And I started to seriously feel sorry for myself. ‘Look,’ I thought miserably, ‘at all those people on foot who can just nip into a shop. I can’t nip into a shop…I have this big, stupid bike.’

 I forgot, you see. I forgot that I chose to ride my bike on this round of external examining. 

 My husband wants to buy the house down the street. So did I, before I figured what it would mean to the family finances. Now, I’m not so sure. He wants to have a house as nice as his colleagues have. He forgets that we spent our twenties – and a bit of our thirties – travelling the world and working itinerant short-term jobs. We chose not to work at jobs we didn’t like after university.

 And it’s the same with the writing life. Nobody told us that writing fiction would be easy.

Nobody said to us in high school, ‘This is a great career. You’ll be treated beautifully in this industry and have security and happiness to spare.’ Nobody said, ‘Writing fiction is great for your ego,’ or, ‘Everyone I know who writes fiction has a great standard of living.’

 We chose to become writers because, when we were young, it seemed like the most wonderful life of all. It still is…if you don’t feel sorry for yourself.


3 thoughts on “Writer on a Train: The Choice We Made

  1. I was out to lunch with a writer friend of mine and I said to him, “I really admire your ability to stay true to writing as a career.” He lived in a room in the “Poet’s Hotel” here in Seattle and barely scraped by. He looked at me and said, “I admire your ability to hold down a 9 -5 job.” It hit me then that I was not a real writer. I enjoy writing, but a true writer or artist HAS to write or paint, usually at the expense of worldly comfort.

    1. Hmmm. I’m not sure about the whole ‘has to write’ thing. It makes us sound as if we all have psychological problems (more than everyone else, I mean). I think you decide…

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