Or Those Five Dreaded Words
Five words that make my mouth go dry and my armpits wet as I know there is no way out of the shame of confessing it is nowhere near being published. It hasn’t even been picked up by an agent.
I was out last week with a group of friends I used to work with. We don’t catch up that often, in fact it had probably been almost a year since we last got together. Over wine and food we did the usual rounds of asking how everyone was, what we had been up to, how are the children, husbands, parents. As we skittered round the table I grew quieter, hoping that no would would notice that I hadn’t pitched in with an update but knowing that I couldn’t avoid that question I was dreading.
It was framed in the spirit of friendship, of kindness, of genuine interest. But I was embarrassed. When I took my time off to write Thicker Than Water I didn’t make a big thing of it. I knew the chances of it being published were small so I didn’t tell too many people that this was my plan. Once it was written I was proud of it and asked a few people if they wouldn’t mind reading it to give me some feedback. And so word spread that this is what I had done. I was surprised at how impressed everyone was that I had actually completed a whole book. 77,000 words for heavens sake. It turns out plenty of my friends have thought about writing a book, might have scribbled down a few notes and a plan but never taken it any further. But despite them being genuinely amazed by my awesomeness, I didn’t feel that myself. I was ashamed that I had taken time off work, used up some of my finite financial resources, written a book and no one wanted to publish it. Publication would mean my gamble had been a success. The manuscript gathering pixel dust on my laptop meant it had failed.
But these people are my friends. They were indignant on my behalf. Those who had read it reiterated how great it was. Those who hadn’t read it, asked to. All of them urged me to self publish. Get it out there. Sod the agents and publishers and book shops. They know nothing.
They also wanted to know what was next. Did I have another book in me? I confessed that I did. That I had already begun planning and drafting. They were excited and wanted to know what it was about. I spluttered out a couple of sentences but was desperate to change the subject. Move the conversation on to someone else.
No one at work knows I write. No one knows about this blog. About my Twitter feed in my maiden name plugged into other writers and writing groups. When anyone asks what I did before I joined the company, I talk about my previous job and don’t mention the four months I had at home writing furiously with everything crossed.
I always say that I would rather have failed having given it a good go rather than not having tried. But it turns out I am only happy to have done that as long as no one knows.