I’m never one to sit on my hands but this was the year I really wanted to turn into something. I’ve wanted to be a writer forever and now I want it more than ever – and having achieved my goals of being employed to write AND beginning to crack the beginning of the world of freelancing (and I have only begun, it’s a close world and a tough nut) I wanted to look at the thing I want most: to write a novel.
Because, oh. If you’ve been told for most of your life that you’re a good writer and that “you should write a book” it’s easy; so damn easy just to sit on your hands, your writer’s hands that should be writing, and wait. Wait for the idea, wait for free time, wait for someone to approach you and say “I can see you have a book in you, let me give you money and space to sit and write, and let’s see what comes out of you, shall we?”.
Those moments never arrive. Those things never happen. Ideas might come from thin air, but the air has to be thin first – not thick with problems and work and wardrobes and friends and alcohol and social engagements. And it’s not going to thin out on its own, either – you have to wave everything else away, shut it behind a door, sit down and do.
I’m good at starting. I’m good at doing. I’m not good at finishing.
I can’t tell you how many book projects I’ve begun and not seen through. And I’m not talking 5, 10, 20 thousand words – I’m talking pieces that got to 70,000 words and stalled because I didn’t have the confidence and drive and goddamn time to see it through.
And you just get busier and busier. More friends, more things, more draws and pulls and needs.
So I did what I do when I want to make myself exercise, which is something that comes far less easily to me: I put my money where my mouth is. You see, the only way to make me sweat is to make me pay for it, and so for years my small vestiges of fitness have been sustained by gym memberships and recurring Boot Camp fees and Spin Class Introductory offers. If I’ve paid, I’ll go. I’m simply too cheap not to.
So I paid over £350 that I cannot really afford to attend an Intermediate Class at The Groucho Club. 3 hours, every Saturday morning for 6 weeks. Do the homework, do the prep, do the time and see what comes of it.
I’m three weeks in and I am hooked. There are 12 people in my class. Some people are better than me and some are not as good. This last Saturday I had to read an excerpt, which I did with a shaking voice, curisng my New Zealand accent that never seems to manage gravitas. And then I got ripped apart, gently, of course, because that’s what I’m there for – guidance and help, not destruction.
They told me: careful with flashbacks, you lose your place. They told me: stop setting yourself up for jokes and let the warmth shine through. They told me: this is confusing. They told me: this is too much.
You know what no one said? “You’re a wonderful writer; you should write a book”.
Writers have to have the thickest skin in the world, and mine is growing, callousing. Sitting in a room that has, at many times, been filled with great literary minds, makes you small. But I can’t let that happen, if not least of all because I didn’t spend £350 to decide that perhaps, after all, I’m not a writer at all.
I’m three weeks in, three weeks to go, and here is what I know: there isn’t going to be an epiphany, or a moment of certainty.
A book isn’t written in three weeks, or a career decided in 21 days. At the end of it, I have to keep going and pushing and join the queue of people who are certain that they have a book inside of them and write it. Finish it.
There are so many things I want to write, but that doesn’t make me great or interesting or unique. The only thing that might do that – might – is if I sit down, and finish it, and then work up the courage to show it to the world.
Pick one. Pick one. Pick one. And just bloody write it.