You’re forty years old. Middle age is upon you. When you smile, crow’s feet appear. And you’ve just lost your job. Fired.
May 1995. That’s where forty-year old Jim Grant found himself. An Englishman and a big man, 6’ 5”, Jim had made a career in British television production only to see that career dismantled strategically by people and forces over which he had no control. There was little he could do about it and he was angry. And broke.
Jim needed to do something to make a living and didn’t have time or money to waste. He went to the store and bought pencils and a ream of notebook paper. Pencils, because they’re cheaper than pens. He didn’t have a computer. He just sat down at his kitchen table and began to write:
I was arrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock.
Fans of the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child, Jim Grant’s pen name, will recognize these words as the opening lines of Killing Floor, the first of the Jack Reacher novels. Lee Child has published twenty-three Reacher novels, all bestsellers, with a twenty-fourth in production to be published this year.
What are the takeaways for you and me in this short sketch? Here’s a couple:
- He started writing at middle age, not as a kid. He did this because he needed to make a living and had been in entertainment most of his life. A novel is entertainment. Child argues that beginning to write at middle age is a great thing because you have experience with life. This gives credibility to your stories. See the video below.
- He channeled his anger and frustration creatively. He didn’t baptize his misfortunes in pint after pint.
- He began the career of a New York Times bestselling author in the least sexy way possible: At his kitchen table with pencils and loose-leaf notebook paper to save money. No Macbook Pro. No fancy creative space. Just a chair, table, pencil and a piece of paper. It doesn’t take much. Just put your butt in the chair and begin.
That’s what he did. You can do the same.
Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future (Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer with Paul B. Brown)
Image Credit: Christian Fahey