"In reality, my writing would lose something if I didn’t have to squeeze it into the cracks of my real life...That’s when I’m at my best."
2 January 2019
I’m such a dick. I barely wrote a word in 2018 and I’ve just looked at my website and realised I also haven’t written a blog article since May 2018 and even that was an old article rehashed. It’s title (I kid you not): Stop making excuses, you have got time to write.
Obviously, I’m the absolute King of not practising what I preach. Because I was supposed to have finished the first draft of my third adult novel as well as the first draft of my mid-grade children’s book (which frankly terrifies me) before the strike of 12 on New Year’s Eve.
Unfortunately, no magical elves or Mary Poppins-like nannies appeared to inspire me to write like crazy to meet that self-imposed deadline as Big Ben fake-chimed the New Year in. The pages for both books simply remained a jumble of scenes and ideas in various Word documents, scattered all over my laptop like the crumbs of an unbaked cake (yeah, I watched Bake Off last night instead of writing).
So, what are my reasons for the blank pages? There are many, all of them excuses (I hold my hands up to that). Sometimes we need excuses, though, or we’ll slip below the surface of life’s water and we won’t have the energy to kick back the surface. Here’s mine:
I have only just realised I’ve been suffering from this, probably since way before my second novel was published. Getting published wasn’t what I expected, you see.
There, I’ve said it.
I sound like a spoiled brat, right? It’s not that things are going badly, but I think many authors (myself included) start off with unnatural hope when they land a publishing contract. Somewhere, somehow, we think our novels will be the ones to break through, our novels will gather their own steam without the weight of a massive marketing budget. Fly my pretty, fly…
The truth is, for all but a lucky few of us, that doesn’t happen. As this reality seeps in, a little bit of our soul dies. For a little while at least. Maybe it doesn’t die but it certainly slips into a coma, like Snow White, waiting without agency for a near-stranger to kiss her drugged and lifeless body back to life*. In the end, reality bit my soul back to life instead of kissing it. And it came back changed, with different truths, hopes and dreams than before I was published.
The things is, most of us authors can’t make a living from our writing. Cards on the table, we can’t even make decent pocket money from it. In the past, I confess to more than a few moments feeling jaded by this but it’s a new year and I’m shaking the negativity off. My novels have been bought and read by thousands of people so I’m luckier than most (and if you’d told me this before I was published, I’d have been over the moon).
I’ll probably never be an author selling millions of copies and that’s okay. I know from reviews and emails that my books have made a difference to readers’ lives and that’s pretty amazing if I allow myself to reflect on it.
So what if I’ll only ever be writing for the love of it? Doing something for love has never been a bad thing.
I have a business, have done for 15 years. Last year was a big year for us and next year will probably be even bigger, with lots of changes and challenges. I love it and I’ve worked hard for it and it deserves my attention. I found that in the latter half of last year, I didn’t have the emotional energy for writing because everything I had left (outside of my family) was going into the business. Some days this stressed me out (because I like to find new and inventive ways to stress) but in reality, my writing would lose something if I didn’t have to squeeze it into the cracks of my real life, so I’m entering 2019 at peace with the fact that I’ll be writing at night again, after a day at the office when the kids are in bed. That’s when I’m at my best anyway.
I include my children here not because I resent the time and energy it takes being a parent – quite the opposite – but because it’s a simple fact of life that I have a 7 and 8 year old and I’m the primary carer in our house. I love them more than it’s possible to express but they definitely add to my exhaustion levels sometimes, emotionally and physically. In short, they’re a great excuse for me not to write.
Having a break over the Christmas and New Year period has been fantastic for getting things in perspective, though. I am writer but only if I actually write. So I’ll be writing every single evening in 2019 until my third novel is finished. It doesn’t matter what else is going on in my life, because there’s always something. No more excuses.
So maybe I wasn’t such a dick in my previous blog article after all – I just needed to listen to my own advice. I reckon I’ll have a first draft of Other People’s Lies** by end of March. If you’re still reading at this point, you can keep me to that promise.
* Snow White is a bit dark when you think about it, eh?
**I’ll almost certainly not call the novel that in the end but that’s my working title. It’s more of a thriller/whodunnit than the previous two books.
Bestselling JHP Fiction title, Goodreads Choice Awards nominee, Best Debut Author
Can Louise move on from the loss of her lover Tom? Can she and Tom's twin brother Adam really find a way to love one another? Or are they trapped on a path of self-destruction, moving towards a tragedy neither can avoid?
Currently finalist, The People's Book Prize for Fiction
After witnessing a fatal car accident, a homeless man wanders the streets of Brighton, trying to ignore the new, incessant voice inside his head. Is Dan ill or has he really been possessed? Finding the dead man's wife is the only way he'll know for sure.