So I got the chance to attend the Terry Pratchett Memorial event at the Barbican Centre last week. It was an amazing event, as you might expect, getting the chance to be surrounded by his fans and to witness his family and friends all paying tribute and sharing their memories of him. Being there will be a memory I shall cherish all my life.
I wrote about my feelings regarding Sir Terry’s death and how it affected me at the time, so I won’t go into them again. You can click here for a link back to the original post.
But being there that night got me thinking about what I’m doing with my life, what I want from it, and what I’m doing to get it. In actual fact there have been several events in the last month which have all gotten me thinking along these lines, but this was the capstone on all of them.
I want to write. I want to be a writer. I want to create stories and characters that take a life of their own and take root in the imagination. I want to see that people enjoy my work. I want to leave the world a fuller place than it was when I entered it. I want to entertain, to thrill, and to disturb. I want to be part of a community of like-minded people.
And I want all of this to be my full time job. While I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t enjoy the levels of fame, recognition and fortunes that Terry Pratchett obtained, I’m not going to fool myself that I could ever achieve those heights. But I’d like to reach the point that I call “The Dream”; earning enough through my writing to life comfortably on that alone.
I want to believe that my life as it is right now is part of a story that is progressing towards these goals, and above all I want the strength to fight the nagging self-doubts – those fears that gnaw on the back of every thought – that I might not be good enough. That I might never find any real ‘success’ or ‘recognition’, with my writing never developing to anything more than a hobby. Or that a lack of progression might someday combine with other pressures to bring me to give up writing completely.
In the introduction to A Slip of the Keyboard, – which he actually read out during the Memorial – Neil Gaiman describes how his friend Terry Pratchett was a very angry man, and how it was that anger than drove him forward. How it focused him and pushed him when he felt he wasn’t doing everything he knew he could be.
I need this anger.
Sometimes I take a step back and take a long look over my life, and ask myself whether I’m doing everything I can do to achieve the things I want in life. Am I working on the right things? Am I doing everything I can to get my name out there? Am I putting all the effort in that I can? And when I do this I can see full well where most of my problems – those that I have, anyway – fall.
I am content.
In the overall balance of life, I am one hell of a lucky guy; I have a beautiful wife, I own my house, my personal health is in good shape, I have good friends, a full time day job that I enjoy, two cats, and a great relationship with both sides of my family. On top of that – making this political for a moment – I was lucky enough to be born a middle-class, white male. I know full well that in comparison to so many people in the world I have nothing to complain about. Please don’t think I’m looking for sympathy, because in the grand scheme of things I know full well I don’t deserve it. But this post is about me, and through the filter of my perspective and my own personal narrative, it’s a problem.
Contentment is the antithesis of drive. If I had no wish to be especially creative, my life would be pretty much perfect. I could work, watch TV, take up a hobby for my free time. That’s not a bad life, but I want something else and need to keep pushing myself to work on it. I have to be honest and admit that far too often I spend my time relaxing and enjoying the things I have rather than setting myself to writing. I need the drive, the anger, to want to fight the status quo. I have to keep pushing myself everyday. To work to keep the creative momentum going. To give myself deadlines. To make the hard choice between resting and working on my dreams.
Basically, I need to be angry that I don’t have what I want. Not an uncontrolled anger at the world for not giving my what I want, but a driven, directed anger that I haven’t got there yet. Anger at myself for not doing everything I can, tempered by the understanding of outside influences that must be addressed at the same time. Not an anger that makes me an unpleasant person to be around, but one allows those around me to recognise my drive and encourage it.
I have to remember how I felt that night as everyone said goodbye to one of the greatest British Authors of all time, and take what he taught me to heart.