Friday, 2 April 2021

Steve Ways by Steve Way (Well one of them anyway.)

 Reaction to my ambition to become a writer went through an interesting evolution from some of my family and friends. To begin with, as I was never good at spelling, many told me that I couldn’t possibly be a writer for that reason. (It didn’t hold back severely dyslexic writers such as Ben Elton of course – but I wasn’t to discover that until later.) Oddly enough when I got my first book published these same were amongst the most vociferous in assuring me that they ‘knew you could do it!’ The third stage came when, as I gained more confidence and ambition, and I began promoting myself a little, keen to the projects I was working on. It soon became clear that this was not appreciated by these particular people, as though I had indecorously broken an unspoken rule of etiquette and was getting ahead of myself. Eventually I avoided the subject of my writing altogether when in their company, essentially papering over this portion of my life, lest I caused further offence.

Not unnaturally I think, under the circumstances, I felt a sense of sadness mixed with resentment. I don’t know about you, but I find it awkward to promote myself at the best of times and this certainly didn’t help.

Another unexpected consequence of putting myself out in the public domain as much as I dared was to discover that my name wasn’t as unique as I’d thought. I realise Steve is a commonly used contraction of Stephen (and its various permutations such as Steven.*) However, previous to this, I had thought that my surname of Way was fairly rare and obscure. I was used to people when writing down my surname, to be ready to add extra letters, caught out by the three-letter word. At a school I visited as an author a teacher kept introducing me as Steve Wade, using the much more common surname, no matter how many times I tried mentioning it was Way. She even did it again when I revisited the school a year later!

I couldn’t have been more mistaken. It soon became apparent there’s a hidden army of Steve Way’s out there, many of them well known and successful in their various fields of endeavour.

There’s Steve Way the successful cartoonist, Steve Way the marathon runner who’s represented Great Britain, Steve Way the wheel-chair bound comedian and there’s even at least two other Steve Ways who have had books published. No doubt there are several more notable Steve Way’s that I’ve missed out of the list. I can’t help wondering if the other Steve Ways out there know about the rest of we Steve Ways. In my case particularly whether the other authors find it amusing or a nuisance that there are several of us with the same penname in print.

Oddly enough it seems possible that the first two Steve Way’s in the list above and I participated in the 2001 London marathon. I was informed about this afterwards by a friend who checked if I’d finished online. Apparently out of the three of us I puffed in first. Possibly however it was one of the first marathons heavily smoking Steve Way entered, where he gained the ambition to stop smoking and train competitively. It was probably the last time I would ever outrun my namesake. (I note however that I did once represent GB in a marathon – as the New York Times reported the following day to my surprise and delight, as they list all the competitors. It turned out I proudly came 3041st for GB – or thereabouts. Oddly enough this was never reported in any of the British newspapers.)

Even more weirdly I was contacted recently by someone who had come across my web-site (www.steveway.org – not .com as one of the other Steve Ways had already nabbed that ending!) He claimed to have met me at the offices of Punch magazine several years before. Despite the fact that there are several photographs of me on the site, he clearly thought I was Steve Way the cartoonist. Perhaps not only do we share the same name, maybe we’re also doppelgängers! Now we’re into Dr Who territory. Maybe there really is a cloned army of us out there amongst you waiting for a command or signal from our evil creator. Exterminate… exterminate…

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*Despite this I haven’t been able to teach any of our French neighbours – we live in France – to say Steve. They all call me Stee-fen. My Spanish friends, who I teach English, have made further progress but call me Eh-Steve, with the Spanish vowel sound before an S – as in ‘Eh-Spania’ – that they find understandably difficult to avoid adding. Even more oddly though when they send me emails, they address me as Esteve!