Golden boys - 2002
Yesterday I sent a piece of writing to a friend who is a well known and respected author. He was generous with praise and asked if I intended publishing the series I have been working on for the last few years.
It is significant that he didn't ask if I had considered publishing; his emphasis was on whether or not I 'intended' to. I have no doubt that this subtle difference comes from his experience as a writer of, amongst other things, deeply personal biography.
For through I write about landscape and nature, these are usually a backdrop to the main subject: my relationship with my sons and the sense of wonder they have given me. Another writer friend once described my work as an astonished journey into fatherhood.
But therein lies a problem. For that journey is inevitably a consequence of my own childhood and the fractured relationships I had with my parents - my father in particular. My father is dead, but to publish would inevitably cause hurt to others, my mother especially. I am not, and never have been, the person she thinks I am - and she would not want me to improve her understanding. I have no wish to either.
Shortly after my first son was born I recall Jane saying, your trouble is that you have no reference points; or if you do they are the wrong ones. She was right. It took me years to realise that my sons might love me back. And when they did, that simple fact has driven my writing ever since.
But do my sons want their childhood 'out there' for others to read? And how would they feel about my interpretations of event? For interpretations is what they are; though I strive to be honest, there is a necessary difference between objective and personal truth. Writers must always editorialise; the very act of pressing the keypad is an exercise choosing what, and what not, to emphasise.
I should explain that my work is never 'pour it all out' stuff - nor is it writing as therapy, from which dark secrets are revealed. It is simply a response to the situation I find myself in, and the past I came from.
But what of those who are close to either end of that astonished journey? I fear they will misinterpret my motives, question the need and argue the finer details - and in so doing, miss the bigger picture: that we can all come through.
And yet to write a book and keep it firmly closed, seems, if not exactly a pointless exercise, then a self-interested and self-limiting one. For I have learned from kayaking and climbing - as well as from fatherhood and writing - that for life to be worth living, we must take some risks with it too.