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Man of steel gives blood, finds metaphor

As you know, I have about a million kids and they spend half their lives treating me as a climbing frame. My eldest daughter likes to climb on my head. I’ll quite often have one child on my lap, one on my head and one sliding down my shoulder.

Inevitably, in the course of this, parts of me get squashed, stepped on, or generally bashed about. When the kids ask if any of this hurts, I tell them, no, of course, not, I’m a man of steel. My younger girl takes that seriously enough that when I went swimming in the sea once, she was alarmed. Steel and seawater: even five-year-olds can see that’s bad.

Anyway. A month or two back, my missus decides – sensible woman – that we should both get broad spectrum blood tests. The sort of thing you do to check your general health, rather than to investigate a specific condition.

My tests were basically OK. Heart, fine. Vitamins, fine. And so on.

Except – ferritin.

My iron levels are through the roof. My transferrin saturation level (an indication of my remaining iron-absorption capacity is) stands at 91%. It ought to be somewhere between 25-30%.

Or, to put it another way, MEDICAL SCIENCE HAS PROVED I AM INDEED A MAN OF STEEL. At the very least, I am exceptionally – nay, dangerously - ferrous. Since learning the news, I have stayed well clear of industrial magnets and, during thunderstorms, I hunker down indoors beneath a rubber blanket.

There’s more investigation to follow, but it looks probable that I have haemochromatosis, a genetic condition, common in those with Celtic ancestry.

The bad news is that the condition is incurable. I’m just going to continue collecting iron forever, like a Soviet era tractor plant that never gets decommissioned.

The good news is that the solution is simplicity itself. Eighteenth century, in fact. I just need to bleed lots. If I lose my iron-excessive blood, the body makes fresh blood that has no iron in it. Easy.

Now you can lose blood in any number of ways. You can do it eighteenth-century style with cupping and leeches. Or any competent nurse can draw blood and discard it. Or I can just donate blood to any blood bank. It’s win-win. My blood will strengthen anyone who doesn’t have my specific iron problem. And I get stronger from giving it. 

And that, my friends, is your metaphor for today.

Almost every kind of writer-to-writer exchange is enriching for both parties. It makes you both stronger. Here are some examples:

  • I act as a beta reader for you. You act as a beta reader for me. We become better writers and (just as important) better readers too. (Townhouse is a good place for these kind of exchanges. It was built to do that.)
  • I mention your (genre-suitable) books in my newsletter. You mention mine in yours. We get more readers.
  • I buy you a drink at a literary festival. You buy me one. We talk. We bond.
  • I’m unsure about whether a particular agent (or publisher, or publishing model, or whatever) makes sense for me. You share your experience. I share mine. We both grow wiser.
  • Some bit of lit-tech is doing your head in. I share my knowledge. You share your knowledge of whatever-the-heck. We both become more capable authors.
  • Some particular bit of agent ****wittery (or any other sort of wittery) annoys you. Your author-buddies don’t just listen politely. They really understand your issue and why it bothers you. They might even have some suggestions about what to do. They know you’ll be there for them, if and when positions are reversed.

All that – and friendship.

Yes, you lot probably each have a million friends. I bet you go to all the best parties. I bet you call Harry and Meghan ‘Hazza and Megs’, as you lounge in their Californian infinity pool swilling their own house champagne. You and your beloved probably roll your eyes when Barack Obama texts you to invite himself round. Again.

But author-friends are special friends. They are impassioned by the same things that impassion you. They care about the same things. Their stock of knowledge will be the same-but-different. Giving knowledge, giving time, giving thought, giving an ear – all those things will build friendships, and fast. Take it from me that author friendships start easier and last better than any other sort.

And how do you get started? Well, as with most things, it gets easier after publication. You just hang out at festivals – ones specific to your genre, for preference – and drink yourselves silly with your fellow-authors. (Or at least, this is the technique employed by crime authors. I expect sweet romance authors just get together for cucumber fingers and a fresh mint tea. The hist-ficcers either slash at each other with broadswords or dance elegantly while talking in polysyllables.)

And if you’re not published yet – well, hooting heck, don’t moan at me. We built Townhouse for you, didn’t we? There’s room there for hist-ficcers, and sweet romancers, and space opera impressarios, and everyone else in the writing world too.

And honestly, my hope would be that, as well as connecting with one and all on Townhouse, you find your own writing buddy there. Someone who you work with privately, offline. Supporting each other. Believing in each other. Critiquing each other. Helping.

Giving blood will make me stronger. It’ll also strengthen those receiving it.

Writing-love works just the same way. Please give generously.

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Comments (7)
  • Hi Harry,

    My mother found out that she had haemochromatosis when she was in her seventies! We did struggle over the decision of whether or not to pop out to Morrisons and get a few jars of leeches but then opted for the nice nurse at the local hospital instead. So mum now goes a couple of times a year and has her lovely iron-filled blood drained and donated by the nurse there. 

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    • Yep - women usually find out a bit later than men, because we don't bleed as much. It's sort of a nice condition to have where the cure is (a) simple and (b) helpful to others.

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    •  A friend of mine had this. He gave blood often.

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      • I too have too much iron, and have decided to fix it by donating blood every now and then. I'm in France, so I guess I am saving French people while being forced to recover from the blood letting by noshing afterwards at a groaning board with various cheeses, pizzas, slices of whatever and  also apple tarts, along with a variety of drinks and coffee (some French people actually only come for the nosh-up - all afternoon - and give blood kind of by-the-way). It's hard. I suspect I've been banking my iron up since having a hysterectomy twenty=five years ago (no loss of blood, see), but what would I know.

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        •  I love the metaphor, Harry. I’m the opposite, not enough iron in my blood. What would you call me? 

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          • Hmm. If you were a vampire, I'd say you were my ideal other half ...

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          • Now I know why I have this magnetic attraction to Jericho Writers.  Well over a decade ago I, too, was diagnosed with excess iron.  Despite tests the cause hasn't been identified.  I'm just being continuously monitored and to date I haven't rusted away.  Hang in there, we need you!

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