There were times when I thought I’d never make it.
There were times when I felt like taking up something altogether less demanding, like tiddly-winks or basket-weaving. There were times, indeed, when I felt like smashing my head against a wall.
But then there were the other times, the good times. The times when I walked around hugging myself and grinning like a lunatic, and all because I was writing a novel, and it seemed to be going well. The times when I sat up until three o’clock in the morning hammering away at my laptop – not because I had to, but because nothing else, not even some much-needed sleep, could possibly be more important or interesting than this. The times, frankly, when I seemed almost scarily obsessed – the times when, if my novel had been a person, I’d have had a restraining order slapped on me, so disturbing and stalker-like was my fixation.
This is the thing that is often hardest to explain to people who have never tried their hand at creative writing. Making things up – the thing we all instinctively do when we’re children, and are frequently told off for – is, apart from anything else, tremendous fun.
Not absolute, unadulterated fun, of course. Something that you’re taking so seriously can never be that, not really. Besides, I wanted the finished product to be more than just fun; I wanted it to be good. I sometimes sat scrutinising every word, every sentence, wondering how they could be improved. Then, moving back from the microscope, I’d see the picture in its entirety and panic. The whole thing was flawed! The entire project was hopelessly defective, a complete waste of time!
Panic attacks notwithstanding, I persevered. This, I resolved, was not going to be another pathetic literary stillbirth. No, damn it, this one was going to live!
So I sat down to mend the holes and fix the blemishes. It was laborious work, painstaking work. Concepts such as show, don’t tell and active writing and plot structure began to invade my very dreams, as did niggling little points of grammar for which I’d never previously spared a thought. (Oh, the grammar … if nothing else comes of this, I am at least a far better grammarian than I was before.) Gradually the novel acquired definition and polish, and began to seem less like a seemingly-eternal work-in-progress and more like a finished product.
And now the finished product is out there, on the electronic shelves in your favourite online bookstore.
How do I feel? Exhilarated, certainly, and rather more pleased with myself than I’d care to admit. Yet even as I’m giving myself a figurative pat on the back, I’m also feeling a bit nervous – no, scared, actually. Being a natural pessimist, my various imagined worst-case scenarios tend to be almost apocalyptic in their awfulness. Mostly, I just feel a bit drained. I’m looking forward to taking a break – a short break, admittedly, because I’m already preparing for my next literary confinement, so to speak.
Meanwhile, my first child is out in the big wide world, where anyone who so wishes can go and have a gander at him.
Is he a bonny baby, or an unsightly brat? Is he the cat’s whiskers, or more like something that the cat dragged in?
Alas, that’s not for me to decide. I’m too close to my baby to be an objective judge of his worth. I love him absolutely and unconditionally, but I could hardly do otherwise; whether or not anyone else will even understand, still less share, my love is out of my hands now. The choice, dear reader, is yours…