7 Reasons to Write a Novel

‘…the potential to have that physical copy of something created by you and you alone is something to savour.’

Let’s be honest, if Katie ‘Jordan’ Price can produce a publishable piece of written output, I guess it really is true that everyone has a book in them. Nowhere in that well known sentiment does it comment on the quality of that piece of work but I suppose that’s not the point.

So if everyone can do it, then the question remains, why do some rise to the task while others don’t? In our younger years, most likely the first bits of creative writing we embark upon will be set tasks given to us by tired English teachers with unironed shirts and bad haircuts. At least that’s my memory of things. Of course when we do something because we have to rather than choosing to, it becomes onerous; a form of work. When it comes to writing stories or essays, some will thoroughly enjoy the process and the spark will be ignited there and then. They begin to write in their spare time and may even forge careers as writers of some kind, able to enjoying what they create for a living.

What might be the motives for the average person to write a novel though? For my part, this was an interesting question to mull over because if someone were to ask me that out of the blue, I don’t think I would be able to answer it – at least not satisfactorily. Having now thought it over, I have broken it down into different aspects which may or may not apply to others but I suspect at least some or maybe even all will apply for most.

1 – An idea for a story that just needs telling – This is a fairly obvious one. If you have that sudden moment of inspiration and stumble across a unique and unbeatable format then there is almost a responsibility to get it done. As rare as that is, I suspect a lot of the best pieces of work have come about because they are simply too good not to have been followed through. A bit like Velcro (great invention).

2 – A creative distraction – This was a big factor for me due to my line of work. I work in the medical field and as such am surrounded by facts, figures and absolutes. A lot of the time, particularly in the beginning, it was a case of accumulating knowledge and being taught at 24/7. It follows that there was a part of me that wanted to explore my more creative side and I imagine it would be the same for someone who is punching figures in an office all day or trying to stay awake during droning presentations and arduous meetings. The freedom in creating something of your own, whether it be a piece of writing or a piece of music or a painting, is that it is yours to do with what you want. There is no part of it that must be learned or that must conform to a set curriculum. There is no one telling you what to do. You can simply get on with it without any supervision and see what happens.

3 – A way to explore your own thoughts and views – In the creative process of writing a novel or even an essay or a work of non-fiction, chances are it will be a solitary task; something you undertake without any other’s influence, at least directly. This is a fantastic opportunity to have a think about what your own views are on the greater topics at hand. Certainly during the writing of my novel, many a night has gone by contemplating topics ranging from the universe, human behaviour, mortality and happiness. Particularly during early adulthood, our long-term outlooks on life begin to properly develop but it is not until later that the dust starts to settle. Once we have a little experience behind us and have had a chance to think about what everything means, we can begin to get a grip on the world around us, thereby refining our personalities and producing something approaching a well balanced individual. Some are better at this than others. From her extensive biographical output alone, clearly Katie Price has her shit together. My point is this – having something to focus all of these thoughts on and actually getting something written is, I suspect, more useful than experience alone. If you are considering your opinion on something, whether it be science, religion, a certain branch of politics or whatever, thinking about it in isolation and writing it down is far more rewarding that simply following a chosen path set out for you and everyone else.

4 – A way to express yourself – With point number 3 in mind, perhaps you feel about something strongly but, until now, have no way to let anyone else know; no outlet. Maybe it’s frustration over a political frailty (and God knows there’s a lot of that around at the moment) or it could be more of an escapism; a chance to live vicariously through one of your characters or to let others into your imagination to view your dreams and desires. Some people are more shy than others and the medium of words is a brilliant way to show everyone what’s going on in that head without having to explain it to them face to face at some posh cocktail party. (I must stress I have never been to a proper one of these but am perpetually on the alert for the eventuality that such an invite comes through my letterbox).

5 – To influence the thoughts and thinking of others – A more forceful personality may want to take the above point a bit further. If one has a strong belief, they may try to ask others to consider their point of view and adopt it. Matters of conservation and human rights are examples of this. Things in which the collective actions of large numbers of people have real impacts on things around us can be influenced by various means. Film and TV are obvious illustrations here but the written word, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, also has the potential to galvanize a readership and rally people around a particular viewpoint. There are certainly enough satirical works of fiction out there that may well have been written directly to influence ways of thinking.

6 – Lifestyle of a writer – I will admit a lot of my motivation for starting a novel was the idea of the lifestyle. For me, there is an almost mystical draw to the process behind writing something and one of its draws involves the lack of any deadline but your own. (I never said my inspirations were necessarily grounded in reality!) As well, a large part has to do with the locations and surroundings involved. It is an activity quite unique in the sense that you can pick, within reason, where you want to do it. Personally, I always envisage a cosy country pub, ideally in autumn or winter with a nice view or a quiet corner somewhere busier where I can keep an eye on the world passing around me, whilst able to sink into my own little world for a time if needs be. Once you’re on a roll in this environment, it’s almost a meditative process; a way to relieve stress, particularly if you partake in work of a more hectic nature at other times.

7 – Sense of achievement – My final point is something I suspect that, even if we don’t admit it, all of us have to some degree in the backs of our minds. I would be lying if I said I don’t want any of my pieces of work to gain viral status and my novel to become some sort of runaway international best seller, forever on the all time classics lists. While that will probably (almost definitely) not happen, any sense of achievement in even finishing something like a novel is draw enough for many. It’s tough and involves unbelievable amounts of work. But the potential to have that physical copy of something created by you and you alone is something to savour. Something that, however small, will leave your own individual foot-print behind; that will potentially be there, at least for a while after you are gone. I like that idea most of all about creating anything – the chance to generate these ripples of yourself that are still spreading out even after your own story has ended.


‘Scuba diving smashes through this plateau of excitement and carries the line up several notches.’

Everyone has things they’ve always wanted to try. In many cases it boils down to the age-old ‘I’ve just not got round to it yet’ scenario. In my case there are many of these life goals still on the list. Aside from the novel, a skydive is right up there (pun intended) along with playing a round of golf without losing even a single ball. Until recently, scuba diving was on that list too but fortunately I’ve now quite literally taken the plunge.

Having done so I am frankly annoyed with myself that I have left it until now to immerse myself in this world (again I’m sorry for the punnage, I’m in one of those moods). This self-directed annoyance is reminiscent of the time I had a Boost bar for the first time, a magnificent occasion that happened not that long ago – so many wasted years eating Whispas.

I have always loved the water and I spent several years in my youth as a lifeguard (pool, not one of the cool beach ones). Diving had always been in the back of my mind as something I would definitely do someday but, as always, work and other things get in the way. Part of the appeal in diving is of course gaining access to a completely new version of the natural world to which we are used to. A childhood watching shark documentaries sparked the interest I suspect. There was always something fascinating in watching hippy scientists falling backwards into pristine Caribbean waters. Sean Connery’s Bond searching for downed nuclear war-heads in bright red scuba gear brought that element of swagger to the discipline and of course the cinematic genius of programmes like Blue Planet are simply awe-inspiring.

So it was that I finally decided enough was enough and I arranged to go on the initial PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open water dive course. The idea of heading into the murky waters of a reservoir just outside Slough for my first real experience was not one I particularly savoured and so I decided that somewhere abroad would be preferable. So it was that, having convinced my brother to join me (he’s even older than me so must be even more annoyed that it’s taken this long to try it), we jetted off to the Spanish island of Menorca to sample the waters of the Mediterranean.

Aside from the fact that it ended up being warmer back home than in Menorca for that week, we had an awesome time. It was quite early in the season and as such we were the only two taking the course, adding a welcome element of focus from our instructors. We had swatted up on the reasonably extensive theory beforehand but were still put through our paces with a test before we got to grips with all the equipment. Our first dive was in a swimming pool but the following day we got to try out all our newfound skills in a shallow bay. Only a few weeks later, there was a shark spotted more or less exactly where we had been diving. Close call.

Once we were confident enough, the following few dives were more routine and our instructors really pushed us. One in particular was pretty exciting because of the entrance and exit, essentially a steep rock face with crags sharp as a knife down which we had to lug our equipment. At the bottom, we had to launch ourselves into the surf and swim out quickly into calmer waters before being dashed on the rocks. It got a little sketchy when we first tried this, to the extent that we had to abort it on the first day and try again the next. I’m glad we did because the resulting dive was spectacular. Jellyfish in high definition inches from our faces, starfish of varying colours (partly due to the change in the colour spectrum at different depths) and a little underwater cave that we hovered in for a little while.

The feeling of diving is like nothing I’ve experienced before. It is such a new and unique feeling that is refreshing to experience at my age. I’m not saying I’m really old or anything but in youth, our lives are filled with new experiences and discoveries which tend to thin out as time goes by. Scuba diving smashes through this plateau of excitement and carries the line up several notches. The element of danger gets the adrenaline going (a bit like how camping in the Canadian wilderness is a bit more exciting than popping down to the New Forest for a couple of nights) but more than that, the wonder of being in this completely fantastical environment is quite something. It’s something you know has always been there and you have gazed across it, even skimmed quite literally across the surface of it countless times, and yet when you enter it, it’s like a different realm altogether. That feeling of weightlessness is pretty liberating and, though I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, it’s the closest thing I think I’ll ever get to flying (Superman-like flying, not flapping-your-arms-flying).

If you’ve not guessed by now, I am now hooked and to that end we’ve already booked our advanced course which is happening next week. There are now a plethora of different diving interests that one can branch into including wreck diving, dive photography and night dives and, once a few of these elements are tackled, the possibility to head out further afield to make the most of these qualifications really opens up. I suspect in another life I would have enjoyed being some sort of underwater cameraman! I’ve always been drawn to stories of the first explorers who all lived in a world uncertain of its own boundaries and whose walls were adorned with unfinished maps. Now the only maps that are left unfinished are the ones that relate to our oceans and I suppose some of that mystery draws me towards life beneath the seas now. Bottom line, if you get the chance to try it, do it!

Happy – Derren Brown

This book took me by surprise a bit. I already new how obviously clever and, might I say, wise Derren Brown was having read two of his other books in the past, so I knew this would be a good read. Any book that has been so highly praised by Stephen Fry is also always likely to be a winner. However, the subject and the way he deals with it was far more in depth than I had anticipated. It almost read like a philosophy text book at times, though that is no bad thing. I think it fitted with the book. Certain parts, particularly the sections towards the end focusing on death, though sounding a little morbid, were more rewarding that others and I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is prone to feeling a bit low or has found themselves stuck in a bit of a rut. Equally, it is a cracking read for anyone interested in philosophy or who has, from time to time, pondered the meaning of life and our place in the universe.