27th August 2020
A writer’s life can be lonely. You have to be your own first believer and keep faith in the face of endless rejections. You have to remind yourself that it isn’t about financial gain, but creative achievement and seek ways to sooth your fragile ego. I keep good reviews to read when I am low, and I am always surprised. It is easy to forget your successes when you are constantly facing the next challenge. Your public face must be upbeat, but there are days when that’s just not how you feel. The slightest thing can knock you off kilter.
A book or a play is a huge personal investment. There is a lot of me in every one of my characters. I have to inhabit them to write them convincingly. Being a writer is a little like being an actor, only hidden. When I come to the end of a story I have usually spent months, often years, developing it, editing and polishing. The characters are as familiar to me as members of my family. I care about them. It matters to me what happens to them when they go out into the world. Like children, you want them to be safe, to be loved, to be valued.
Being your own publisher requires more resilience than ever. I have no advocate. I am having to sell my own work. Usually it’s publishers and their press departments who approach other authors for preview quotes and endorsements. I have to do this myself. It isn’t easy to approach an established writer you don’t know well and ask if they will read your novel and allow you to quote them on the cover. It isn’t easy to write a press release singing your own praises (even if you are quoting from reviews) and persuading someone to make space in their newspaper/magazine or programme for you. It isn’t easy to be met with silence or indifference. I think that when you are bold and take risks, people assume you are robust. That you are tougher than most. That it doesn’t hurt as much. This is not true.
So yesterday was a day of tears. A day where things did not go well. A day of being let down. I cried a lot and wondered, not for the first time – is it worth it? My ever-patient husband assured me it was. I tried to believe him.
This morning, I cried a bit more. And then I called my brother who is my creative champion and personal super-hero. He put it all into perspective. He reminded me that early readers have loved the new book, that my previous novels are averaging at 4 stars on Amazon, that I have a play going out on Radio 4 in September and, most importantly of all, that Once Upon A Place is a book I am proud of. I think it’s beautiful. I have made it beautiful. That’s enough. It’s time to send it out into the world. People will read it. And some may find it beautiful too.
And then the postman arrived with a parcel. A Good Luck gift from an old school friend who has been proof-reading the novel for me and loved it. She has been recommending it to friends and her online book group. She believes in me. Another friend is providing me with a cover quote at short notice. I feel better. I’m not leaping with joy today, but I am comforted and I will keep going and there will be good times ahead and celebrations, I’m sure, and it will also be hard sometimes, really hard, but all you can do is keep on going and believe.
See you on a brighter day!