I had already written a dozen or so articles when fortune – or perhaps misfortune would be more accurate – thrust writing upon me as a full time occupation.
For twenty years I had happily worked in light engineering. Fastenings to be precise, the screws, washers, rivets, nuts and bolts without which all the better known parts of the engine would fall apart. But times were changing and after being made redundant three times in just under four years (coupled with some other rather radical changes in my life) decided not to scrap for the few crumbs of the ever-diminishing engineering cake, but to change track completely. Hence I turned to writing.
Reflecting on this decision from a fiscal point of view, this was not overly wise. Had I foreseen the demise of the job (and personal life) I could have started to wean myself onto the new career some ten years earlier and given myself a healthy start in the literary world. Anyone thinking of taking up writing full time, please note.
Still I managed to combine early writing steps with turning my hand to other, quite diverse, tasks – garden maintenance, walking dogs, decorating, installing a garden pond, clearing guttering and other equally non-literary jobs which at least prevented me from going hungry and enabled me to write. I also signed up for a correspondence course on how to write. That course is still running and I did learn something from it, although it did prove a tad disappointing.
This was a different time for wordsmiths. Newspaper and magazine editors were more open to freelance submissions. Thrift tips proved quite good earners considering the effort involved and letters pages also paid reasonably well. The internet has put paid to all that today.
I wrote about what I knew – which wasn’t walking dogs, decorating, but did include garden ponds and their maintenance – which had always been etymology, the origins and development of words and language. With numerous local publications, and a couple of national ones, interested I soon amassed a reasonable portfolio and within a couple of years began pitching the idea of same as a book covering my home county to book publishers.
It took but six months to receive the contract for said book….. but more on that and this book next time.