Like many five year old kids, I wanted to be astronaut. So imagine my disappointment, when thirty years later, I’m sat at a desk in an air-conditioned office, wearing a suit, an Excel spreadsheet stretched across my twin monitors. Ah fuck, I was supposed to be on the moon right now.
And like many twelve year old kids, I wanted to be writer. A slightly less lofty aspiration, but no less satisfying. And besides, in the intervening years I came to discover that I was scared of heights. Being an astronaut was entirely out of the question when climbing the stairs in my secondary school was a task that filled me with dread on a daily basis. Writers usually keep their feet on the ground, albeit physically rather than metaphorically.
A stupid little pup, inspired by John Wyndham and Anthony Horowitz and wonderfully scared by Dennis Wheatley, I began to write short stories. Most of them were plagiarised from my novel du jour, but tiny pieces of originality started to creep their way in. And when you open that part of your mind, it’s very hard to close it again.
(Cue sad violins and maybe a sparse piano)
Ambition often gives way to real life and so here I am with a ‘proper job’, not writing or space travelling. Respectable. Secure. Boring. I am editing a fucking spreadsheet. For eight hours a day, five days a week. Feet firmly and predictably on the ground.
But in January 2015, something happened in the glamour-free Excel wasteland of my working life: I automated everything. A macro here, a formula there. The work started to drop off, so now my working day consisted not of editing spreadsheets, but of pressing buttons and sitting back so they could edit and populate themselves. It wasn’t exactly Skynet, but I was pleased with it nonetheless. I have always been a technically minded nerd.
Other than my productivity increasing, a significant outcome of this automation was that I had an awful lot of spare time between the hours of nine and five. An awful lot of time.
What could I do with that time?
Might as well write a novel, I suppose
So I spent the rest of January planning it out. Genre, character, tense, plot twists, who’s going to die, who’s going to sleep with who. Suddenly I felt a glow I had not felt since I was a kid, scribbling those stolen plots into my school notebook and irritating the teachers with my terrible handwriting.
No turning back now.