For a short time in the mid-nineties, I was unemployed. I lived on social security benefits and I worried about my future. And yet, odd as it seems now, when I look back on that period of my life, I realise that I was a very happy chap. The reason, I have since decided with a nod to schmaltz and cliche, is that I could dream. My lack of direction, my lack of purpose, my lack of job, allowed me to dream of all the things that might be.
That, you might reasonably think, is a young man’s game. I may not have had a job, but I had a whole life ahead of me and I could still become any number of things. If you are young and healthy you might yet become a movie star, a policeman, a successful businessman, an entrepreneur, an anything really. And then as you age and fall into career or lack of, those dreams fade. Your 25th birthday passes and you know you are less than likely to become a pop star, you celebrate your 30th with the other people in your section of the company and know you are unlikely to become the next Richard Branson, at 35 you look with envy at others who seem to be on a faster track than you, and by the time you are 40 you wonder why you always have a damp patch on your fly after going for a pee and just hope that you will make it to old age and retirement without having to live in fear of what financial damage putting a second bar of the fire on will do. Reality steals your dreams and passes them on to lottery tickets and your children. They can be anything they want, you tell yourself with grim determination!
I am not going to be Bill Gates or David Beckham or Richard Branson or (thank goodness) David Cameron. I have a reasonably successful business that will probably see me avoid penury in my life but I have no children to whom I can pass my dreams. I once dreamt of having my own school, enough students to survive, owning a house in Japan. Those dreams have been realised and I don’t now know what to do with them. I do, however, have a computer and an enjoyment of writing. And if you have those two things, you have no need to give up on dreams or find a transplant patient for them. You see, writing, for me is all about the dream.
I am not deluded. I am not living in cloud cuckoo land. I know that the chance of my ever being able to live off my writing is infinitesimal. I don’t care about that. I have sold a few books and every single one gives me a tiny thrill. I don’t expect or need those books to provide me with an income. But what they do give me is this lovely, life-affirming ability to hang on to dreams. In this day and age when it is so easy to self-publish on your own terms and conditions, I can put something out there and feel that frisson of excitement when somebody buys it. I can think and dream that others might buy it, too, and I can plan and dream of what to write next. Even better, I know that putting my plan into action will cost me almost nothing and certainly not require me to go to a bank and beg for faith and money. I know these books will never make me rich, and in a way I don’t want them to. After all, realisation of a simple dream stamps on that dream and demands something more. But the simple dream is probably the best dream of all. And neither age nor time can kill the simple dream of the would-be writer.