Words have been a passion of mine for a very long time…
Words have been a passion of mine for a very long time. They have helped me to overcome the loss of family and friends, assisted immensely in both of my careers, within military service and in Industry, and provided me with an escape from what can be a really brutal world on occasion
It all started with one of my Primary School teachers, Mrs Molly Williamson, who recognised me as a “storyteller” at an early age and advised that I should pursue a career as an author. She encouraged me to write at every opportunity and gave me some great advice on how to improve my style. Sadly, it took me nearly 50 years before I truly thought about what she said; my bad!
Dealing with loss through words
My Writing Journey
Throughout my adult life and particularly during my time in the Army, I have lost key family members and a lot of close friends through illness or on operations/war fighting. Loss is a very difficult emotion to deal with and it can be so very easy to shy away from dealing with it, keeping it locked away in your mind. Luckily, I stumbled on a method of dealing with this that worked for me, through the use of words. My first loss was that of my father who died at the young age of forty-five.
I was a boy soldier at the time, my Dad was my hero and, as far as I was concerned, was indestructible. My journey home once I had been informed of his death was surreal; I was in total denial and convinced that he would be waiting for me when I got home, sadly he wasn’t. My world fell apart, and the only thing that provided any comfort was to write, and poetry of all things. It didn’t really fit my macho, military image, but it worked, it helped.
My Military Memoir
As my military career unfolded, I lost some of the best friends and colleagues I had ever had; some were killed in accidents, some in combat, and several were murdered by terrorists. The truth is, how they died wasn’t relevant in some ways, they were gone and many were taken way too soon. Words became my coping mechanism and I would write eulogies, poems, and “Last Post” messages in their memories. In some instances, I think doing this helped me avoid falling into the despair of PTSD, but I will never truly know.
My love of writing got stronger as the years rolled past, even to the point where I started to work on my military memoir, where I racked up seventy thousand words in a matter of months whilst working full-time, but I think it was more a case of relaxation, rather than any plan to complete and publish. I also had periods of high output on the poetry front, usually triggered by a loss. Whilst I collated these, I had no further intentions beyond sharing them with friends and/or family members; and so it went on.
Having decided to retire from the corporate world where I faced a personal and leadership conundrum, I found myself on three months “garden leave”, something that was completely alien to me. I had long wondered how so many business executives had interspersed such leave throughout their careers; as an ex-serviceman the concept was not from my world. Anyway, I ended up in this position rather than compromise my personal values and beliefs, and in turn this presented the downtime to fulfil my ambition to write; I chose to write a children’s storybook. To undertake this work I first had to find a central character and supporting cast; my mind search resulted in the creation of “Wee Tam and the Gang”, whilst the original story focused on an adventure.
Despite offers I pushed on into self-publishing
Bitten By The Bug
I wrote a lot during my Garden Leave, completing my first children’s book, and defining the structure for another five books in the series. By now the bug had really bitten, so I found myself digging out all the poems that I had produced over the years, and cutting them into a couple of books. Whilst in the moment, I decided to approach a number of publishing houses, and actually received a couple of offers; the issue with these was that they seemed to want me to pay them a lot of money, whilst offering very limited support in the areas in which I knew I would need help, namely editing, printing, and marketing. As a consequence, and typically of me, I chose not to accept either offer but to push on into self-publishing.
I knew that self-publishing wouldn’t be an easy option, but at that point my intention was to test the water to see if I could successfully complete the books and make them available to the public to buy online. The answer, of course, was Amazon Kindle. The software was free to use, easy to master, and very effective in terms of identifying a mechanism by which to achieve my aim. Very quickly, I had my first three books available on Amazon and was actually successfully selling them! The numbers selling were small, but I was augmenting this by selling through one of my own websites, which I had constructed for that very purpose. I knew immediately that if this was something I wanted to pursue as a serious business venture, it would need my full attention and at that specific point, the time wasn’t quite right.
“Growing older is a genuine privilege and the ability to look back on a long life is empowering. You can recall your failings, your successes, make adjustments after the fact, and actually get the chance to get it right next time around. Many folks don’t get this golden opportunity, nor the chance to give their life meaning through acts of kindness, teaching others before they make the same mistakes, or simply trying to make a difference.
I have loved words throughout my life, and they have enriched my life in so many ways, from just being a storyteller in school, to crafting eulogies for lost comrades and through that, relieving the terrible despair of loss. As a child, I was advised to become a writer, but whilst I didn’t listen, I never stopped writing throughout my career. It was a strength that set me apart, as a soldier and as a businessman, enhancing and complimenting other skills as I made my way through life.
Strangely, as a long serving military man, I also love poetry which I believe to be nothing more than an extension of storytelling; another communication channel that can deliver stories with great clarity and brevity. Despite my roots as a Highland Scot, it has taken me a lifetime to realise that Robbie Burns did share some incredible foresight, compassion, and human decency when he said, “A man’s A Man For A’ That”. Simply meaning “A man’s value isn’t defined by how much he owns, it’s much deeper”, or his conviction that “One day the world will change, and all men will Brothers Be”.
As I have aged, I have come to realise that our lives are defined by the simpler things we do. Stopping to listen to a homeless person’s story, giving people a second chance, showing them some respect, or just providing some support can be very rewarding.”