Tuesday, 2 June 2015

All writers get sidetracked

Every writer if they're truly being honest with themselves, must surely admit that there comes times when their writing gets sidetracked by other projects. Think carefully. That research for your next book that lead you to start an argument in an online chat room, learning to abseil or scuba dive to get inside the mind of your character, wasting too much time on social media, or in my case.... building a model railway and blogging about it each step of the way on a new webpage called Philden Model Railway.

So what? I hear you ask. All writers have other hobbies. Indeed, but I'm not arguing that it's wrong. I'm arguing that it is healthy. Think of this for a moment.... you're a writer. That in itself gives you an element of looking at things in a different way if you were taking scuba diving lessons for your next book, and brings with it a unique set of skills that conveys the craft of explaining whatever it is you are actually doing. The reader appreciates the end result, and the instructor probably appreciates that the person taking his or her class has sought out their expert opinion on the subject, pending of course on the timing and the amount of questions you throw their way.

Then there is me for example. Ten years ago to the month, I sat down to write chapter one of what would become my first novel, The Long Way Home. Now being a husband, a father of two and working full-time, made finding the time to write a novel an extreme challenge. Something had to make way, and that something was my hobby. I had been building model railways since I was just 11 years old, and at the time I had just completed an exhibition standard N scale model railway which sat on top of a hand-made timber cabinet and occupied pride of place in our living room. My 'layout' as we model railroaders call them had already been exhibited at two model train shows in my home city of Brisbane, Australia. For a while, I was content to run trains around my cabinet in-between stints of writing. But soon we were selling the family home and packing everything into storage while we were building a new house north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. 

When my first novel came out, I quickly threw myself into writing another. My hobby it seems was forgotten about, even after we moved into our new home on the Sunshine Coast. Along the way, the layout was dismantled, my model train collection sold off piece by piece on eBay and eventually we sold our newly built house too, all with a promise to myself that I would build something better one day.

That now seems like such a long time ago. After giving myself a break from working on another novel in 2014, I set off to reignite my passion for anything that runs on rails by taking a long distance train trip on my own to Cairns and back. It seems I got a little sidetracked. That trip led to a book, Train Tripping Coastal Queensland, a short 99 cent self-guided travel eBook that soon became a Number 1 Bestseller on Kobo, and was nominated for a 2015 Global eBook Award. Two more Train Tripping books soon followed, and next month I travel south to spend 3 days Train Tripping Around Melbourne for the fourth and final book in my series. My train journey to Cairns and back turned out to be a healthy sidetrack indeed. Having now rode upon and explored railway lines both past and present along the entire east coast of Australia, I am now planning a hardcover colour photo narrative of my lifetime obsession with trains. And getting sidetracked again, I not only started work on that model railway I promised myself I'd build again one day, but I'm blogging about it every step of the way on my new blog called Philden Model Railway.

When finished, both the new layout and the new book will accompany me on a different kind of book tour. One that will see me exhibit my new layout, sign copies of my new book and finally unite both of my passions under the one umbrella. My new model train layout is an extension of the book, just as the book is an extension of my new model railway. Sure it has got me sidetracked as a writer, but the thing I admire most about writers who go a little too far 'out there' in search of their ideas, is that they usually bring back something interesting.

You can find my new blog here.... Philden Model Railway

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