I was 33 at the time, a doctor in the West End of London. I had been lucky in advancing through several arduous Welsh mining assistant-ships to my own practice-acquired on the installment plan from a dear old family physician who, at our first interview, gazed at my cracked boots and frayed cuffs and trusted me.
          I think I wasn't a bad doctor. My patients seemed to like me-not only the nice old ladies with nothing wrong with them, who lived near the Park and paid handsomely for my cheerful bedside manner, but the cabbies,porters and deadbeats in the mews and back streets of Bays-water, who paid nothing and often had a great deal wrong with them.
          Yet there was something-through I treated everything that came my way, read all the medical journals, attended scientific meeting, and even found time to take complex postgraduate diplomas- I wasn't quite sure of myself. I didn't stick at anything for long. I had successive ideas of specializing in dermatology, in aural surgery, in paediatrics, but discarded them all. While I worked all day and half of most nights, I really lacked perseverance, stability.
          One day I developed indigestion. After resisting my wife's entreaties for several weeks, I went casually to consult a friendly colleague. I expected a bottle of bismuth and an invitation to bridge. I received instead the shock of my life: a sentence to six months' complete rest in the country on a milk diet. I had a gastric ulcer.
           The place of exile,chosen after excruciating contention, was a small farmhouse near the village of Tarbert in the Scottish Highlands. Imagine a lonely whitewashed steading set on a rain-drenched loch amid ferocious mountains rising into grey mist, with long-horned cattle, like elders of the kirk, sternly munching thistles in the foreground. That was Fine Farm. Conceive of a harassed stranger in city clothes arriving with a pain in his middle and a box of peptonizing powders in his suitcase. That was I.
          Nothing is more agonizing to the active man than enforced idleness. A week of Fyne Farm drove me crazy. Debarred from all physical pursuits, I was reduced to feeding the chickens and learning to greet the disapproving cattle their Christian names. Casting around desperately for something to do, I had a sudden idea.
          For years, at the back of my mind, I had nursed the vague illusion that i might right. Often, indeed, in unguarded moments, I had remarked to my wife," You know, I believe I could write a novel if I had time," at which she would smile kindly across her knitting, murmur,"Do you, dear?" and tactfully lead me back to talk of Johnnie Smith's whooping cough.
         Now, as I stood on the shore of that desolate Highland loch I raised my voice in a surge of self justification: "By Heavens! This is my opportunity. Gastric ulcer or no gastric ulcer, I will write a novel." Before I could change my mind I walked straight to the village and bought myself two dozen penny exercise books.
        Upstairs in my cold,clean bedroom was a scrubbed deal table and a very hard chair. Next morning I found myself in this chair, facing a new exercise book open upon the table, slowly becoming aware that, short of dog-Latin prescriptions, I had never composed a significant phrase in all my life. It was a discouraging thought as I picked up my pen and gazed out the window. Never mind, I would begin. Three hours later Mrs.Angus, the farmer's wife, called me to dinner. The page was still blank.
         As I went down to my milk and junket- they call this "curds" in Tarbet- I felt a dreadful fool. I felt like the wretched poet in Daudet's Jack whose immortal masterpiece never progressed beyond its stillborn opening phrase:" In a remote valley of Pyrenees..." I recollected, rather grimly, the sharp advice with which my old schoolmaster had goaded me to action. "Get me down!" he had said. "If it stops in your head it will always be nothing. Get it down." And so, after lunch, I went upstairs and began to get it down.
         Perhaps tribulations of the next three months are best omitted. I had in my head clear enough the theme I wished to threat - the tragic record of the man's egoism and bitter pride. I even had the title of the book. But beyond this naive fundamentals I was lamentably unprepared. I had never seen a thesaurus. The difficulty of simple statement staggered me. I spent hours looking for an objective.I corrected and re-corrected until the page looked like a spider's web, then I tore it up and started all over again.
           Yet once I had begun, the things haunted me. My characters took shape, spoke to me, laughed, wept, and excited me.When an idea struck me in the middle of night I would get up, light a candle, and sprawl on the floor until I had translated it to paper, At first my rate of progress was 800 laboured words a day. By the end of the second month it was ready 2000.
           Suddenly when I was half way through, the inevitable happened. Desolation struck me like an avalanche. I asked myself: "Why am I wearing myself out with this toil for which I am so preposterously ill-equipped?" I threw down my pen. Feverishly, I read over the first chapters which had just arrived typescript form my secretary in London.I was appalled. Never ,never had I seen such nonsense in all my life. No one would read it. I saw ,finally, that I was presumptuous lunatic, that all I had written, all that I could ever write was wasted effort, sheer futility. Abruptly,furiously,I bundled up the manuscript, went out and threw it in the ash can.
           Drawing a sullen satisfaction from my surrender or, as I preferred to phrase it, my return to sanity, I went for a walk in the drizzling rain. Halfway down the loch shore I came upon old Angus,the farmer, patiently and laboriously ditching a patch of the  bogged and peaty health which made up the bulk pf his hard-own little croft. As I drew near, he gazed up at me in some surprise: he knew of my intention and, with that inborn Scottish reverence for "letters", had tacitly approved it. When I told him what I had just done and why, his weathered face slowly changed, his keen blue eyes scanned me with disappointment and a queer contempt. He was a silent man and it was long before he spoke. Even then his words were cryptic.
           "No doubt you're the one that's right, doctor, and I'm the one that's wrong..." He seemed to look right to the bottom of me."My father ditched this bog all his days and never made a pasture. I've dug it all my days and I've never made a pasture. But pasture or no pasture," he placed his foot dourly on the spade," I canna help but dig. For my father knew and I know that if you only dig enough a pasture can be made here.        
            I understood. I watched hid dogged working figure with rising anger and resentment. I was resentful because he had what I had not: a terrible stubbornness to see the job through at all cost, an unquenchable frame of resolution brought to the simplest, the most arid duties of life. And suddenly my trivial dilemma became magnified, transmuted until it stood as the timeless problem of all mortality- the comfortable retreat, or the arduous advance without prospect of reward.
            I tramped back to the farm, drenched, shamed, furious, and picked the soggy bundle from the ash can. I dried it in the kitchen oven. Then I flung it on the table and set to work again with a kind of frantic desperation. I lost myself in the ferociousness of my purpose. I would not be beaten.,I would not give in. I wrote harder than ever. At last, towards the end of the third month, I wrote finis. The relief, the sense of emancipation, was unbelievable. I had kept my word. I had created a book. Whether it was good, bad or indifferent I did not care.
           I chose a publisher by the simple expedient of closing my eyes and picking a catalogue with a pin. I dispatched the completed manuscript and promptly forgot about it.
          In the days which followed I gradually regained my health, and I began to chafe at idleness. I wanted to be back in harness.
          At last the date of my deliverance drew near. I went around the village saying good-bye to the simple folk who had become my friends. As I entered the post office, the post master presented me with a telegram- an urgent invitation to meet the publisher. I took it straight away and showed it, without a word, to John Angus.
          The novel I had thrown away was chosen by the book society, dramatized  and serialized, translated into 19 languages, bought by Hollywood. It has sold millions of copies. It altered my life radically, beyond my wildest dream... and all because of a timely lesson in the grace of perseverance.
           But that lesson goes deeper still. Today, when the air resounds with shrill defeatist cries, when half our stricken world is waiting in discouragement:" What is the use...to work...to go on living...with Armageddon round the corner?" I am glad to recollect it. The door is wide open to darkness and despair. The way to close that door is to go on doing whatever job we are doing and to finish it.
          The virtue of all achievement, as known to my old Scots farmer, is victory over oneself. Those who know this victory can never know defeat.