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Goodbye to all that

15 November 2012 - Expression

Went for my first job interview for nearly two decades yesterday, working for Lyon equipment doing training.  Not sure if I got the job, but on the way home (via TGO awards - where some actor called Bear Grylles won personality of the year) someone tweeted asking what the job was, and I replied ‘Lyon Equipment (Petzl, Sportiva, Beal) - probably doing staff training. Being a climbing writer just didn’t work out for me, but it a shot!’ (last bit was meant to say ‘but I gave it a shot’).  Arrived home past midnight and I saw a tweet from MyOutdoors on my phone ‘Shock news that top author Andy Kirkpatrick is to quit writing’ - which was pretty shocking, as I’d send that first tweet about two hours before, and seeing it like that?  Well it was just pretty sad.

First off I don’t think me packing in trying to make a living as a writer is a big deal for anyone but me, and it doesn’t warrant any kind of news item, after all it’s not like I’m Stephen King.  It’s just a personal choice by someone who’s sold a few books, but in no way whatsoever could be judged as being successful. Like I said, I gave it my best shot for ten years and it didn’t work out for me.

But I don’t want people to get the impression that I’m doing this out of some form of self pity (I didn’t win at Banff or TGO awards for Cold Wars, so maybe thought I was throwing the teddy out of the pram), but rather it’s a conscious decision.  If I can be bold in climbing then I should be bold in life as well, and know when it’s time to stop.

The problem for me is that although I find writing the most thrilling, creative and rewarding thing I’ve ever done, it comes at such a high cost it really isn’t worth it.  First of all although I know there is a part of my brain that can really write well, it’s surrounded by funky retarded grey matter that clings onto every fucking word as I try and fish it out, meaning the simple act of writing becomes an exhausting tug of war.  Want an example?  Writing at ‘but it a shot’ is a perfect example of my self sabotaging brain.  Ed Douglas once said that ‘the problem with Andy is that he’s cleverer than people think’ and I think although he’s right, it’s the damaged parts of my brain that undermine my talents, not people’s preconceptions.  Also financially it doesn’t work unless you have about ten books on the go at once, as what the author gets is pretty small (13% of the trade price), plus you’re writing in very small market, where selling 4000 books is seen as fantastic.  Psychovertical has now probably sold nearly 20,000 copies and yet I’ve not even paid off my advance yet from Random House. 

Many years ago Andy Cave told me you don’t make much money as a writer and I didn’t believe him, but he was right.  You can’t just be a writer.

I started writing in order to sustain my climbing, to be able to pay for me to go away and have adventures, first in magazines, then writing proper books.  Then as I really began to enjoy writing just as much as climbing, and I suspect I began to go away both to climb and to have something to write about.  Now I’ve come full circle, now it’s climbing (well talking about climbing) that sustain’s my writing!

I liked thinking of myself as a writer - as an artist - people telling me how great my books are (it’s a great privilege to really touch someones soul with your words), but really I was getting nowhere.  I also new that a few of Karen’s freinds thought I was a bit of a layabout, pretending to be a writer, and sponging off her, which I tried to ignore, telling myself ‘we supported each others dreams’ - but when you’re a bloke people don’t see it like that. People still weigh our value in gold.

And so I just had to be brave enough to admit that it was over and find a job.  I do feel a little bit that I’m in the process of dismantling my life as the moment, and although tough, I guess it’s what I do with the pieces next that matters most.

I’m not giving up on words entirely.  I’ve applied to The Arvon Foundation to work as a tutor to other writers (I told them I can’t teach them anything about grammar!), I’m working with Johnney Dawes on the digital version of ‘Full of Myself plus I’m getting some third hand satifaction from some great feedback on Karen’s book Boundless which I edited and published.

So I guess me and words are still together.


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Comments 19
  • Heavy Whalley

    Hope it works out for you Andy - Your books are a breath of fresh air, maybe you are a bit to open for your own good? It can get you down at times.

  • Ian Figg

    Andy, sorry to read that the writing hasn’t worked out as well as you’d hoped, though I’ve always found it very inspiring. World world be a lotter better if people got behind their friends when thye try something new. If you want to give something a go, then thats enough for me.

  • Pierre

    A while ago, I was having a bad time like you Andy. I went climbing with a mate who is a very wise dude - he said something that stays with me till today:

    Be kind to yourself.

  • ROb

    Sad news, I enjoy your writing enormously; I appreciate the needs to step away - I hope that you return to it at a later date as it would be a loss to mountain literature if you stopped writing completely.

  • A

    Andy, you’re being too hard on yourself! You are not unusual in missing words out of sentences, you like many other technically minded males are somewhere on the autistic spectrum (albeit low order) and i probably am myself, as are many others who you wouldnt suspect. It isnt a problem its just who you are. A good editor will put the words back anyway. i have never tried counselling and feel too macho to contemplate it, but it might just stop you cutting your ear off (a la Vincent). Avoid spending so much time on your own, some people are best suited to company, we think too deeply (and not always correctly) when we are ‘working from home’.
    All that said, if financially it doesnt stack up then you are making the only decision. Dont stop the lectures tho, you are the best speaker i have seen (Doug Scott and Simon Yates offer no competition).
    Ps delete my post if you’re thinking ‘who the f*** does this guy think he is’
    Pps love the life laundry thing, wish i had the gonads to do it myself!

  • Blake

    I agree that it is a pretty sad post on their behalf too - this is indicative of the level of moron you get on twitter in my opinion

  • Haz

    Thanks for the writing you have done; spelling and grammar mistakes included. I’m sure we will see more from you some time in the future and I really look forward to that.

  • Wyatt

    Are you also done writing technical manuals like Driven?  I was looking forward to more of the PV series…

  • Scot

    Andy, your writing is brave and inspirational to degrees that you perhaps can’t imagine. You are massively successful by simply reaching climbers, would be climbers and non climbers with your words that come from real life and genuine courage. No matter what you make financially as a writer, you will always be a writer in every sense . Hey, Mozart and Van Goch died penniless, never having made any money in their lifetime! Douglas Adams said that for him, writing was torture, every word like getting blood out of a stone. Ok, you’re no Mozart but you are a bit of a hero. How many people have overcome a debilitating disorder like severe dyslexia and published great books? Keep writing… not successful my arse!

  • Anna

    Just so you know, Psychovertical is one of my all-time favourite books. Especially the last chapter. But I totally get that sometimes things need to change. You can only be where you are, after all.

    Thanks for all the words.

  • Robin

    Glad you’re not giving up the writing, we have really enjoyed your books and online writing. You’ll make a great teacher if your talks are anything to go by.

  • Clare

    Just read this and I’m feeling gutted for you - and especially after today’s brilliant news. Really hoping you’ll find a way to fit writing in with everything else.
    I think it’s something non-writing/creative folk often don’t realise, that there’s not much money in these things, but there is soul, and stories that should be told, by whatever method’s right for the story. Unfortunately we do still have to pay the bills.
    Congratulations on today, by the way - well deserved.

  • Iain

    I’m sorry to hear it hasn’t worked out Andy, you’re one of my favourite writers. I think you do yourself a disservice saying your talents are undermined, they’re quite substantial as they are.
    Congrats for today and hopefully see you on tour sometime.

  • steve

    For what its worth I thought I gave up “being a mountaineer” to get a job. I wasnt very good but that decision hurt me in the head and still does sometimes. Reality is though you never really give up anything you just make the choices you need to at the time. I still climb when I can and guess what?..Im still no change there. I find a quick image google on “poverty” “famine” “conflict zone” and “infant mortality” is enough to kick me up the arse if I feel Im missing out or consider lamenting life’s decisions to date smile

  • Darren

    You’re on yet another one of the twists and turns of life. You’ve already experienced and achieved more than most people do in their lifetime. You’ll cope with this latest change of course too, I’m sure…

    Good luck pal.

  • e

    im happy for you. ultra-cool being brave enough to throw away something you thought was you but you evolved past. moving into a new format is always painful - its a good sign. and shit, youre a decent writer - but youre a way better speaker. ones a craft you learned, the other you were born with.

    theres nothing sadder than seeing an old hack grinding away at something thats not really them.
    2 books is bloody brilliant, and your body of online and magazine stuff is some of the best out there even if you hadnt gone down the random house-road. and its good because your an interesting guy with an interesting way of getting your stuff across. if anything the random house-izing sterilized your stuff.
    personally i find your weird grammer and spelling the best bit. andy the dyslexic ranting speedy northerner is far more engaging than andy the pasturized genre writer.
    theres better formats for you (and us) than 250 words a page.

    that said, i reckon youd make an awesome playwrite - your stuff is really dramatic in a theatrical kind of way, you rev people up, youre a natural in front of a crowd, you have a very visual style. plus you get to forgo much of the structural stuff that may be what bugs you with the ‘real life adventure’ genre.

    for 5 years miles davis didnt pick up a trumpet. all he said was ‘i wasnt hearing the music’.
    when he came back he revolutionized music in style, method, reason and technique. by that time the world had caught up as well.

    keep it large.

    your friend,

  • Kev

    Just do what you love

  • Vince Bennell

    Like you say it’s not the end and you’ll keep writing.  I started off as a hack and ended up a medic.  Most of us who follow you know you’re dyslexic and it doesn’t make any real odds - that’s what proof readers etc are for.  Your most potent weapon is your honesty and openess and the ability to “speak” to pleb/every day climbers (i.e people like me).  Fwiw an ex-gf read psychovertical and we split up soon after.  Some people just aren’t wired that way.  The new gf does climb a bit, and understand when I head out for harder climbing with my mate who guides.  One door opens etc.

  • Old Grey

    I read your books backwards, first Cold Wars then PsychoVertical.
    I have to say Cold Wars is a much better book - you’re getting better as a writer. But both books are great - in fact you’re my favourite climbing writer (which pretty much means favourite writer!)
    I just want to add that although I am nowhere near the center of the climbing universe, I think you may be the most loved climber in all of Britain.
    Just a great guy!


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