On retiring from a teaching life in England and Canada, I decided to give up on golf and focus on writing. My scorecard now reads three novels, and a collection of twenty-odd short stories, with several of the luckier ones winning contests, including the J.K. Galbraith Fiction Award (2014) and Niagara’s own Ten Stories High (2016). I’ve also published some articles in various education journals, and had personal essays published in the Globe and Mail and Niagara Advance.
Few fiction writers make a living from their work, so why do it?
For starters, writing is less frustrating than golf.
Reading and teaching books all my life made me want to try my own hand, and contemporary fiction writers continue to be my best instructors. I try to improve by reading writers I fall well short of, and that, I suppose, is the point. Once you start thinking you write well, you’re done; same with golf. But I’d carry on writing even if I never got published.
A Case for Dr. Palindrome has been in my head for 30 years. I toyed with it for a time, then put it away for a couple of decades to get on with my life and teaching career. But it kept surfacing, and once I retired I was able to “finish” it. Though after finishing it I ended up writing a couple more drafts. It’s published now, and I still think there’s more to do, so, maybe nothing’s ever really finished.
I find writing short fiction fun, and a good discipliner, like doing sprints while training for a marathon; writing to a tight word limit makes me realize that what I write can always be reduced. Though you never want to end up with a blank screen again.
Why try and publish? Simple. You should hand in your scorecard at the end of a round.