Monday 4 February 2019

Love and Money: Ciaran Murtagh

When I was a kid I always wrote. It was something that gave me comfort and pleasure more or less in equal measure. I enjoyed making up stories and because I enjoyed it I did it all the time. And as everybody knows, the more you do something the better you get at it, but I didn’t really care. I wrote because I wanted to.

This is not me. But it's really hard to find a picture of a redhead writing on the internet....

For years I would write in whatever spare time I had. I was a teen dad back in 1995, I was working for IBM, trying to get myself onto a university course and struggling to bring up a baby I was ill equipped to deal with. I know none of us are ever equipped to bring up a baby, but seriously…

This is IBM Warwick. It was as exciting as it looked. 

Nonetheless I found time to write. I dreamed of making it my job, of it being the one thing I had to do with my time. I worked through countless temp jobs making the cash to fund my way, keep my daughter in clothes and still I wrote.

I wrote so much that the dream happened. I wrote so much that I got good enough that people would pay me to write for them. I have no idea if I have or ever had any natural talent for writing. I am sure some people do, just not sure one of them is me. I got to be a writer because I put in the hours, because I nurtured what tiny spark I may have been given and made it big enough to be noticed. You gotta fan the flames. 

While the boy in the first picture isn't me. This is definitely me. Croydon can be a rough place. 

I’ve always had one eye on the money. Always. All my adult life I’ve had to provide for someone else. It focuses the mind. If I was ever going to give up a paid job in order to write, then that writing job needed to be paid too. The struggling artist can live on beans and Pot Noodles, his young daughter cannot.

It took some time, but finally I got paid to write an episode of Dick and Dom and that gave me the confidence and the cash – well 3 months’ worth – to ditch everything and concentrate on writing. In that 3 months I wrote my first book. For the last ten years I’ve been making a living as a writer, but…

I owe it all to these guys. And Steve Ryde their producer. 

Somewhere along the way, something changed. I found a way to make the thing I loved doing most in the world the only thing I needed to do – it should be a home run right? Wrong. Writing is now my job. It’s not my escape, my refuge or sometimes even my pleasure. It’s work.

I have no hobbies. Writing was the only hobby I ever had. Being a dad at 17 made sure of that. Now my hobby is my work and it’s not as great as I thought it would be. I have been writing for money so long, I forgot the real reason I ever started writing in the first place. The only hobby I ever had left me, or rather I left it, and now it’s my boss.

I get up every Monday and clock into my office for 8 hours. I do it five days a week. I’ve always got something to write, something I’m paid to write, but that bit of me that used to write for the sheer thrill of discovery is gone. I write to an end.

This year I made a resolution. Before I start working for everyone else, I spend an hour of the day working for me. On something I’m not obliged to write or paid to write, something I just want to write. It might not become a book or a TV programme or anything, but then why should it? It certainly never used to. I’m connecting with writing in a way I remember. And hopefully I’ll feel better about all the work I do as a consequence.

Not sure what this blog is about, but it felt good to write it, which in retrospect, is exactly the point. 

And as for the kid, she’s now 24 and somehow she’s got me to take her to see Busted on Thursday. Your parental duty is never done. You heard it here first. Happy writing.

 Busted. They mean it man. 


Joan Lennon said...

Thanks for this, Ciaran, and I think your resolution is an excellent one!

Susan Price said...

Go for it, Ciaran -- your 'just for me' work will be the best thing you've ever done. Provided you never let it become a chore.

Moira Butterfield said...

I know that feeling so very well, having spent all my writing life earning money wherever I can to pay the family bills. I, too, write every day to do that, just as you do. Be very, very proud. But give yourself, not just an hour, but occasional whole days away from the desk, walking round in a new environment, just letting thoughts come. I'm betting that those are the days that will turn out to be the most productive you've ever had.