It’s almost been a year since I graduated uni and quit my job. How am I going to celebrate you ask? By returning to that same job and that same uni. Dream big, kids. Dream big.
When I left Three eleven months ago I was sure, so very sure, that it was a matter of months, three at the most, before Conniption was recognized as the amazing novel it is and snapped up by a hungry agent. This agent, Sandra we’ll call her, would be an up and coming literary star – not unlike myself – and together, we would make history. Sandra’s cunning and my enthusiasm would be a hard combo for any publisher to ignore, and, as such, we would laugh all the way to the bank, money in our pockets and the resources at our disposal to build the foundation of my empire.
But Sandra never showed up.
That fickle bitch.
Do you know how hard it is to be told ‘no’? I was a victim for God’s sake. I had been beaten down so many times that life owed me this big break. “I’ve poured my heart and soul and dreams into this book,” I told myself, “life has to make it huge. Right? Right?”
The rejection letters – emails, whatever, they all said no – piled up and up. Sandra, the one I’d so carefully chosen (name changed for legal reasons), was my second rejection, despite getting a two-week head start on the competition. I was crushed. And in my abject wretchedness I found an unpleasant and poisonous feeling – arrogance.
I became deluded. So emboldened by my own belief did I become, that when my own instincts told me that something wasn’t quite right in Conniption, I became the worst thing I could be, the very thing that would take me further from my ambition than any rejection letter could; I became blind to my own flaws. How could I not? If I started to doubt myself, my work, then who was left to stand up and fight for Conniption? Certainly not the agents that so clearly didn’t want it. Nor the publishers that had – and still have – no clue to this day that Conniption is even a thing, let alone the first in a larger series. I couldn’t doubt it, not now, not now I had nothing else but Conniption. No. I’d have to soldier on.
It wasn’t until the money had run out, most of another manuscript and the beginnings of yet another bore no fruit that I realized something had to change. I had to get a job. I hadn’t just spent all my own money; I’d spent the banks too. Six months I’d followed my dreams down a path that was leading only to poverty – the horrid, can’t afford your rent or food kind, not the pleasant, singing in the woods like Cinderella while a handsome rich man tells you you don’t have to be a hooker anymore kind. The humiliation was almost too much to bear.
I’d go back to work, I reasoned. Work full time for a year, take the pressure off, save some money, pay the bank back and continue on. So I did, I got a well paying job, recalibrated my belief in myself and kept on. Except something wasn’t right. So I finally decided to change Conniption. It didn’t work as a first person novel. Too much goes on that the flimsy letters I’d inserted to broaden the story came across as forced and unrealistic. Rennoc too, the character so similar to myself, was whiny and irritating as a POV character. As I let my fingers flow, the story pouring from me new and rejuvenated, crafted from a third person perspective it became alive on the page. Real. True. And interesting. But I became obsessed with how many ‘likes’ my blog posts got, how many Twitter followers I had, they became the bench marks of how successful I was going to be. Except they aren’t. They never will be. And then something else became clear.
I’m not the best I can be.
And so now, as one year passes from the day I left my old world behind to dance among the stars and live a life so very few ever get the chance too, I find myself returning to the job I was so quick to leave behind. Back to the university I ignored so resolutely as I scribbled stories, arrogantly, instead of listening to the people around me. This time to study the craft I so desperately want to be good at. Back to find that boy that first started typing, not because he had too, but because he wanted to write the best story he could. Because one thing is different, one powerful and game changing tenet at my core, I’m not going back because I’ve failed (though I have, clearly), I’m going back because I was never ready to leave. I’m returning to my old life as a new person, a person who no longer cares about empires and glory and wealth and power, a person who just wants to spend his life doing what he loves.
So wherever you are, whatever chair your in or house you dream you may one day be in, take it from a naïve fool who once expected the world to bow to his wishes: it matters more what you see when you look in the mirror than it does what a person sees when they look at your picture. Admit what you’re doing isn’t working. People will laugh – I can already hear so many laughing at myself – and they’ll be thankful that you’ve been brought back down to Earth, the same place they’ve never left, but it’s better to be laughed at than waking up sixty years from now, your kids by your deathbed, a wife by your sarky “GET WELL SOON” grapes and thinking, “My word, I hate these fuckers”.
I thought my story was going to be one of undeniable talent and overnight success but I was wrong, it’s going to be what the rest of my life has been, a tale of hard work, determination and never giving up.
May you find your dreams on today, the Holiest of all Star Wars holidays. And may I find mine too, back where I left them.