I’m a writer.
What was that?
I’m a writer.
Sorry, you’ll have to speak up. I can’t hear you.
Okay, okay. You get the idea.
For a long time, only a handful of people – hubby, other family members, a few friends – knew I wanted to be a writer (note wanted to be, not was). Others knew I was interested in writing – it’s pretty hard to hide it when you’re first in line to volunteer for writing-related events at work, and then you end up running your library’s writing group. But I never told them how serious I was about it. I didn’t ask them to read my work, or turn to them with a wild look in my eye to wail about my slowly-growing collection of rejection slips. I didn’t start blogging about my writing process or tweeting about how hard I found it to bash out those tricky first drafts.
I was too scared to.
Because what if I was kidding myself? What if I couldn’t really write? Better to keep it a secret; then, if I failed, I could give it up quietly, and hardly anyone would know I’d wasted years trying to do something I had no ability for.
Yet something kept me plugging away at it. When I didn’t write, the world had no colour; without my characters whispering in my ear, telling me their stories, I felt as if I was living half a life. I was bored. And, despite my doubts, I wanted to get better at it, even if I wasn’t at-all sure that I could.
The only way to do that was to keep going.
In 2007, I had a breakthrough: I got an agent, the wonderful Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books, and my first YA novel went out on submission. I told a few more people about my ambitions at that point – but only a few. And when the book didn’t sell, I was relieved I hadn’t broadcast it. Instead, I got on with finishing my next novel, ACID, and while that went out on submission, started another (mainly as a distraction).
And then, in July this year, ACID was bought by Random House Children’s books.
Finally being able to tell people I’m a writer – and that I’ve got a book coming out – has been like opening a window in a room that’s been sealed up for years, and letting in a blast of fresh air. I no longer have to hide something that’s such a huge part of who I am, or pretend I spend my evenings and days off watching TV, when really, I’m surgically attached to my laptop. I’ve joined Twitter, where I’ve met loads of lovely fellow writers, and now I’m writing this blog. It’s wonderful.
But if I could go back, would I do things any differently?
I’m not for one single moment trying to say that telling people about your writing from the beginning is wrong; in fact, I admire – and envy – the confidence of people who can be so open about their ambitions from such an early stage. However, it would most certainly have been the wrong thing for me. I’ve had so many setbacks and stumbles with my writing, so many nearly-but-not-quite moments, that feeling as if everyone was watching me screw up would have stopped me doing it altogether. I needed to discover myself as a writer in private, and in doing so, find the courage to carry on.
But now? You might just have trouble shutting me up!