I’ve just been reading some advice for writers in which it was mentioned that having a book published (or was that just writing a book?) is the second most common New Year’s resolution. I find this amazing. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very young. When I was maybe fifteen I wrote an essay about the future I envisaged for myself in which I was a successful writer. That was always my life aim. Not to be rich, certainly not to be a J K Rowling, but to make enough money from writing to be able to do it full time.
Then…well, I had no choice but to enter the workplace, and I went from writing every day to not writing at all because I found work too depressing and my spirits were effectively beaten down. There are writers who say you ought to be able to write through depression, that writing should be your best friend, but that’s their story, not mine. I couldn’t, and I didn’t for many years and yet all the while I wanted to. I had little bursts but they never lasted, and I had no confidence at all that I would ever succeed. My parents and family thought the only way to earn a living was through wage slavery and in my mind, those who were published were somehow better people, giants compared with me. That’s how I saw it for many years.
I knew, although no one believed me, that it was work that was hampering me, and that if I were free of it I would be able to – or indeed feel forced to – write. When I threw in my job at the end of 2007 and went to New Zealand it was with the intention of starting my book. Initially I carried on in much the same desultory fashion, unable to settle down and really work at it, but there were a couple of small things that happened while I was in New Zealand that gave me just a little burst of confidence. One of them was that I read ‘Misery’ by Stephen King and realized that what he said in that book about writing was exactly the way I write and the way I think. It made me realize that I wasn’t necessarily a failure, that I actually had quite a lot in common with a very successful writer. The second thing was that while on one of my long drives I tuned in to the one radio station I could pick up (I think, Radio New Zealand). In between interference and cut outs I listened to an interview with a successful British children’s book author (sadly I can’t remember her name, but the books are about children and horses). As ever, the interviewer asked her what advice she would give to other writers out there and hardly surprisingly her answer was ‘just sit down and do it’. Although not all that profound, it rang true as good advice.
Neither of these events caused me to suddenly jump to attention at the laptop, but they did stick in my mind and ferment a little and once I returned home I was determined to ‘fake it until I made it’, and finally settled down and got started. It was hard at times to keep going with no positive encouragement from anywhere and with my finances not improving, but as the novel progressed I realized I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. Writing was what I was born to do, in the sense that it is what my brain prefers doing above all else. It isn’t just a hobby or an interest, it is a part of my being. There is no aspect of writing that I dislike. Of course the best part is working through the first draft, but even the editing and endless rewriting (I rewrote some parts about three times) are fun.
The least fun part has come now, when I have the novel polished and completed, read by several people and commented upon very favourably in all cases, but still unsold. Ironically, two of the people who have enjoyed my novel have been my mother and sister, but unlike most families there was no guarantee that they would like it. My sister reads little and certainly doesn’t like science fiction or fantasy, of which there are small elements, and my mother although an avid reader, is very much a fan of sagas and romances that I’m not too keen on. She had also had her stroke and was finding reading difficult. Reading my novel started her back on the road to enjoying other books again.
I wouldn’t be so concerned about the unsold aspect if it weren’t for the financial disaster dogging me. I had to have faith in my writing to keep going and risk all. A year ago, before my mother had her stroke, I felt like I was on the edge of the cliff. Now I know I am falling, and so far no agent has given me the chance to grab hold of a bush in passing! If I go back to work I feel all will be lost, but right now the walls are closing in.