In October, my second book, A Rolling Stone: Taking the Road Less Travelled, was released.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
I told people I had written about my Seven Summits journey via a book cover poll on Facebook. Since then, one of the most common questions I have been asked is why.
Why write a book seven years after the conclusion of the event? Why write a book when you have moved onto other chapters of your life and haven’t climbed a mountain of great significance since? In fact, why write a book at all?
These are fair questions and during the intense period of actually tapping away on my keyboard, I assure you it really was not something I considered. I will explain another time about the process of exactly writing the book.
The why question has always fascinated me – more than how, when or what. What motivates people to undertake challenges or races? What motivated me to a) climb those mountains and then b) want to share it. I just opened up a Word document and starting tapping away. I have since reflected on a few reasons so here they are in decreasing importance:
This will probably make more sense when you have read the book. That isn’t a sales pitch by the way – I’m guessing if you’re reading this then you most likely have an interest in one of the following: reading, writing, adventures, climbing or you know me. If I’ve missed you out, then I apologise.
It sometimes takes time, and perhaps a change of circumstances, to give one the overall perspective of past events. I am not talking about the climbing, that aspect of the story has not changed, and, in many ways, or for me at least, is a less important part of the journey. It is everything else that was going on at the time. Writing this book has been an introspective and cathartic experience and that is the bit that I probably sought closure on. That’s probably the aspect of sisu I am proudest of.
It is hard to admit one’s real failings and share the fragile parts of our minds. To do so requires one to be in the right psychological state to reflect. I could never have written In Search of Sisu post-Everest when I was 22. Or perhaps I could, but it would have been a surface level climbing book, rather than the more complete version it is now.
I have always preferred to express my thoughts in written form – probably indicative of my introverted character. This has its obvious drawbacks but I enjoy time to reflect and process my emotions. It is a reason why I love writing and receiving letters, and why some of them feature in In Search of Sisu. I keep all the letters of significance I have received over the years because they represent time, conscientiousness and thoughtful consideration.
Writing In Search of Sisu was a highly reflective process. Trying to immerse myself back to being a self-conscious teenager, or a naïve yet ambitious climber, was a fascinating process. Above that, I think there was something nagging at me that wanted to get out. There was a part of my character, and past, an aspect of that Seven Summits journey, never previously expressed. I think I had suppressed the emotional urge to write but then gave myself the opportunity to just go for it.
There is a lot of content that was emotionally challenging to write. It might be a surprise to some, and not to others, but it is my way of conveying the other side of that period of my life in as honest a form as I can.
EDUCATE / INFORM / INSPIRE
My life changed when I read a book aged 17. I was inspired to start writing In Search of Sisu by a book aged 28. I am not saying that my ramblings will inspire others to climb, explore or write but that is the power books have on me. If someone decides to do a ParkRun, trek in the Himalayas or do the Three Peaks because they can empathise with my love for exploring in nature then that’s great news. I would be delighted to read and hear about your experiences.
Beyond the climbing and exploring side of the book, there are social aspects that I think have a greater impact. I will be overjoyed if anyone reads my book and feels liberated to express themselves and not feel uncomfortable discussing past events. The transitionary periods in our life, and the latter teenage years specifically, are highly influential and challenging. I don’t think I was alone in the fairly solitary struggle I was going through. If this gives people the freedom to be more open about their experiences, I would be proud and it would make the whole writing process a worthwhile one.
LEAVE A LEGACY / INCOME SOURCE / VANITY PROJECT
I have put these three factors together because they all, within reason, come under the same bracket. A lot of people write books in the aim to make the bestseller list. They can then live off their earnings after making a megadeal with Paramount Pictures for a trilogy of films starring Emma Stone and Chris Hemsworth. It’s a lovely idea and, for the one in a million, it makes for a highly lucrative path. I, however, can’t quite see In Search of Sisu making that kind of splash. I am self-publishing the book for a number of reasons (again, another post in due course). That does mean a lot of sacrifices in terms of wider marketing and finances for the sake of maintaining control, which, for my first and a very personal story, was one I was willing to make.
There is probably a desire to hold a book in my hands that I’ve created, it would be a lie to say otherwise. It would be a similar feeling to the first time I pressed print and felt the weight of 90,000 words in my hands. This will have involved collaboration from a lot of people: editors, printers, proof-readers, cover designers etc. This whole process has involved more and more people as it has progressed and that has been an absolute joy. I feel truly fortunate to have the support of so many people, regardless of whether they buy the book, and I’m grateful for that.
IS THAT YOUR FINAL ANSWER?
I sort of wish I could give a straight answer. Writing this has been emotionally charged, joyous and therapeutic. There is a myriad of reasons why someone decides to write a book, in the same way an artist takes to the canvas, or a musician picks up an instrument. They are all a means of expressing one’s inner spirit.
Creativity allows us to convey an aspect of our minds that would otherwise remain hidden and unseen to the world. That’s probably the real reason why I decided to write this book. Referencing Maya Angelou above, there was an untold story inside me that sought an exit route and putting pen to paper is my method of delivering it.
AVAILABLE TO BUY
In Search of Sisu is available to buy now on Amazon for £9.99.
Loads of wonderful 5* reviews so far and it is ranking really well which is amazing.
If you don’t believe me then feel free to disagree with this guy…
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
“Powerfully written and compelling…a must read”
If you like it then please review it and share it. If you don’t then, well let me know as well, I’m always up for a bit of headbanging.