South Tawton

South Tawton

Every business needs to have alternatives, don’t they? We’re all told we should diversify. Farmers should break into providing mini-breaks for bed and breakfast guests, while bookshops should sell coffees and restaurants should provide wifi. Diversification is good, clearly.

Well, no it ruddy well isn’t for me!

As an author, I regularly have to spread myself too thinly. I have in the past been a happy visitor to festivals, libraries, bookshops and acted as guest speaker at a wide range of events. Most of them very good fun. I’ve taken on additional jobs, such as the two year stint with the superb Royal Literary Fund, and I’ve even done that most hideous of stupid things … yes, I’ve worked for the good of other people on committees to help other authors.

Up on the high moor near Belstone

Up on the high moor near Belstone

And what was the result of all this activity?

Mostly, it’s cost me a lot in terms of time, money, and effort, that could and should have been better spent looking after my family and our income.

I know that working at Exeter University cost me somewhere in the region of three books. I know that working on committees within the CWA, especially when I was Chair, cost me another book. The thing is, all these things are expensive in terms of time.

If they all paid, that wouldn’t be a problem, of course. But I’m self-employed, and when I’m late on a deadline, or when I don’t negotiate a new deal, that hits me in the pocket. And that is hard for a man as old as me and with a mortgage as large as mine.

Am I whinging? No! All those jobs were my own choice. And now I’m doing things more for myself.

I’m diversifying big time. And really enjoying it! As you can see!

Triple row on Cawsand

Triple row on Cawsand

Earlier this year, to get me out of my house, I built myself a lovely little prototype paintbox. It’s simple, it’s as well constructed as a box made by someone who has never, and I do mean never, worked with metal before, but it’s delightful for me to use it. I love it. And because of this, I’ve started painting again.

I had forgotten how much pleasure could be derived from merely sitting still and analysing scenes. However, it’s already helped me in terms of thinking about scenes and locations for my books (you can see more about this on my YouTube channel – it’s called writerlywitterings, imaginatively enough). And what is a real, genuine delight, is the fact that some lovely people have already bought some of my paintings.

I’m not Picasso. I’m not even halfway to being as good as James Fletcher-Watson – but I do get a real buzz from attempting to render something sensibly on paper. And getting a little money for it too is just lovely.

So many thanks to the buyer of my last picture. I hope you get many years of fun from it!

The house that inspired the books: Simon Puttock's house: West Henstill near Sandford

The house that inspired the books: Simon Puttock’s house: West Henstill near Sandford – now sold!

5 Responses to “Alternatives”
  1. Love the South Tawton painting. I know well the frustrations of self-employment!


  2. Nice work, Mike. And they pay you? Lucky ******.


  3. Al says:

    Like the Belstone picture. Atmospheric. Keep on, keeping on.


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