If you could go back in your life and change one decision you made, which would it be?
We’re not talking about buying the wrong car here. We’re talking decisions that could be life changing – turning points, if you like. At the time, you don’t always realise the impact of some choices or decisions.
Most people can probably find several turning points in their lives.
Last week, while I wrote about how poverty and the loss of my father at an early age affected my life, a couple of my turning points sprang to mind. (Click here to check out the post)
Friends or integrity?
My love of reading and my active imagination got me into trouble as a child.
I liked to tell stories rather than simply relate events. These embellishments may have made my accounts more exciting, but on this occasion one of my friends to call me a liar.
I’d exaggerated the facts, added a few flourishes here and there, to make the tale more entertaining, but I hadn’t lied. My friend continued to accuse me of being a liar. I fought back and the accusations and counter accusations grew in volume.
In the end, he said he had better things to do than listen to a liar and walked off. To my dismay, the rest of the group followed him.
I walked off in the opposite direction. I lost my friends, but retained my integrity.
I wasn’t to know that it would set the pattern for my life.
Would I go back and change that decision?
No way! It made me the defiant (my wife calls it stubborn) person I am today. But I learned to save my embellishments for my writing.
My second turning point came when I wrote my first novel, Survival in the Garden. Yeah, I know it’s not the most exciting title, but it was accurate and was written for children. The story dealt with tackling bullies and oppression by banding together.
I submitted the novel, typed on my portable typewriter, to Hamish Hamilton Books, a publisher I’d found in the Writers and Artists Yearbook. I wrote an accompanying letter, as recommended, and waited for a response.
Several weeks later, the publisher wrote back, praising the characterisation and dialogue, but no offer of publication.
A few years later, when publication continued to elude me, I wondered whether I should have told Hamish Hamilton I was 17. I thought they would look at my age and not take me seriously. After all, how many 17 year olds wrote novels when they could be out chasing girls, playing football or starting a job?
With no father, no one around me who wrote fiction, and friends who thought I was weird writing stories, I probably made the wrong decision. Hamish Hamilton may have looked at my story in a different way, maybe even taken me on.
We’ll never know.
Would I go back and change this decision?
It’s tempting to imagine what might have been. That’s what writers do. They imagine new worlds and fill them with new lives. Maybe one day I’ll write about a 17 year old who gets a book deal.
The real turning point
At the age of 23, I was still living at home in Bury, north of Manchester. I wanted a place of my own and found a house I could afford. It was exciting, making plans, imagining what it would be like to live alone, to have the freedom to do as I pleased.
But the cracks soon appeared – not literally. The house wasn’t sinking into the ground. No, a small patch of dampness, caused by a blocked air brick, prompted the building society to demand a full damp and timber survey, which I had to pay for. They refused to accept my evidence as I was not a surveyor.
Neither were the people who did damp and timber surveys, but that didn’t seem to bother the building society.
I pulled out. I didn’t feel the same about the house anymore. The whole episode had turned the dream into a nightmare. It was an emotional rather than a practical decision. A decision based on principle.
It cost me the freedom I yearned.
Or did it?
No, it made me realise I wanted change, the chance to spread my wings, to live my own life. I didn’t need to buy a new house to achieve this. I could get a new job.
Three months later, a job opportunity came up in Eastbourne, a seaside town on the south coast, 310 miles away from Manchester.
Had I bought the house, I wouldn’t be here today, writing crime novels set in the majestic South Downs.
Okay, It’s a lame link to updating you on my progress with my January Challenge to complete the first draft of my latest murder mystery novel by the end of the month.
I haven’t written as many words as last week – 8,086 for those who like precision – but I
- moved the story to the point where everything is about to kick off
- introduced some new ideas and twists that I never envisaged
- wrote one scene that brought a tear to my eye – and that doesn’t happen often.
Looking ahead, I may even look back at my decision to ‘go for it in January’ as a turning point.
Something for the weekend
Instead of the usual wordplay, I’ve chosen a favourite song that came to mind while I wrote this post. River of Dreams by the original Barclay James Harvest was the title track on their final studio album. The track deals with looking back at your life and what might have been.
If you’d like to know more about my murder mystery novels, click here to visit my Amazon page. Or you can sign up to my reader group for more insights, updates and a sample first chapter from the novel I’m currently writing.