February 14th. St Valentine's Day, a celebration of love. One person will be getting a card from me, and she knows who she is - she should do, as this will be the 37th Valentine I've given her, and I hope there will be many more.
But there's another love in my life, one I've been involved with since I was in my teens, and that's writing. I remember declaring my love in my mid-teens. I announced to all and sundry that I had a calling, that I would be a writer and never do anything else. Nobody took much notice at the time, and nobody said be careful what you wish for, although there have been many times since when I wished somebody had.
At any rate, I did achieve my wish, although it took longer than I ever thought it would. I finally went freelance as a writer when I was in my early 30s, and have made my living from my writing ever since. And of course to begin with I did still love writing, although right fromn the beginning I found that I had to put aside things I wanted to write in favour of work that was guaranteed to pay. I've always been a listmaker, but pretty soon I had two lists - one of projects that I had been commissioned to write, and one of stories and poems that I would get around to writing when I had the time. Occasionally I could take an idea from the second list and use it to fulfil a commission. But over the years that second list has only grown.
You might say that I'm very lucky to get commissions and make a living out of my writing. That's true, and I wouldn't want to make my living any other way. Writers, however, are never happy (ask my wife, or indeed, the spouses of any writer), and the grass in that field beyond the fence always looks much juicier and more colourful. I'm proud of everything I've written, and I merrily sign up to do more (good freelancers always take on too much just in case of... well, just in case - ask my agent and my editors). It would however be wonderful suddenly to have a year in which I could simply try writing some of those great ideas I've never got around to.
It's probably not going to happen, though, and sometimes, in my darker moments (writers always have dark moments - ask anyone who knows them!), I tell myself that I fell out of love with writing many years ago, that what I do is just a job, that there are all sorts of things I could do that would be more profitable and interesting and less painful.
Then at the end of another long day of writing against a (missed) deadline I find myself relishing a line, or a paragraph, or a solution to a knotty plot problem I've just come up with. Or I find myself writing a sonnet for my wife on Valentine's day, just for fun. Then I'm like that teenage boy again, and I know I've always loved writing and that I always will. After all, there's no other reason to do it, is there?
Tony Bradman's novel Viking Boy is published by Walker Books