I’m as open and honest about my failures in writing as I am with my ambitions and goals. I make no secret of the impact I want to make, of what I want to sell, how far I’d like to go. When someone is talking to me about their future, I always, without fail, tell them they can do it. They say they want to become the next world chess champion? I’ll pick up a pawn and help you practice. Win an Olympic gold medal? Bitch I’ll eat my snacks at the side of the track while you run, shouting “you got this!” until I’m blue in the face and spill my Cheetos. I like when the people around me succeed. Why? Because I can’t imagine a worse fate than dying in a job you hate.
I’m pragmatic. I don’t ever just say “yeah, you’ll do it.” I try and help. Or encourage. Or, if they ask, help them plan. It might only be in passing, a night out and you tell me “I want to have a picture hanging in the Louvre.” I’ll ask you what you’re painting right now and then tell you that I don’t believe in limits, I believe in other people’s failure and they’re bitterness, something they pass off as limits.
Why am I writing this? Because I’ve not been able to write anything substantial since I finished my third novel, The Goose Mistress and today, finally, I’ve figured out why. It was as I was on the phone to my Gran, where a lot of my good ideas come from, that I thought to myself why can’t I write. I said to her, “maybe I only had one good book in me and that’s it written.” But I knew that wasn’t true. Isn’t true. I was making excuses. The real reason I can’t write is because of you bitches. Well, that’s not entirely correct. Not because of you, but because of how I let you make me feel, how I invite you in to the creative space in my head when you don’t deserve to be there.
I’m about to finish my Masters. I’ve spent a year writing to prove something. To prove that I’m good. To prove that I’m better than Kirsty, or Matt, or Sarah. I’ve been writing to get good grades. Writing to get a book deal. Writing to prove Stephen’s “oh that will never happen” smile clear off his face. Writing to prove my old boss wrong when he said I’d “only make a living from it.” I’ve been writing to make myself better than everyone else. To no longer walk the same streets as you all. I’ve been writing to get an agent, to entice them to me. I’ve written to attend pitching events where bratty bitches look me up and down and say “no, this isn’t for me,” without so much as a “why did you write it this way?” I’m writing for all the wrong reasons. I’m writing to prove something to you.
When you don’t matter at all.
There’s a lot of support out there. Friends and colleagues have been my biggest fans, sharing my work and telling me “you can do it!” when I make stupid, probably self-doubting jokes about private jets and famous parties. I don’t even want any of that. I don’t want to be someone that can’t walk along a beach in peace, that can’t go into Greggs without being judged for buying a pizza slice and a chicken bake and a pack of yum yums. The only reason I thought I wanted that was to prove to those who had sneered, who had disbelieved, that they were wrong. I was right. But I’m not right. Because I’m not writing now. And that’s because I can’t write for anyone else. I have to write for me, for my characters and for the fun of just writing.
So, as of this second, there is no time limit on when I want to have a book deal by. I’m twenty-five, and, thankfully, authors are not ridiculed for getting older like in some jobs. I have no plans to take over the world any longer. I will write. I will write well. I will write creatively and strongly and with passion. This is the type of writing that sells well anyway, so why am I worried?
God spoke to me one June day as I walked home from a job I hated, a course I didn’t feel good enough to do. He told me, silently, but unmistakably, that writing was my path. He promised nothing. I should expect nothing. Nothing but being one of the few people in the world that knows, heart and soul, who they are supposed to be.
I wish you well my Olympic medal winning, chess-champion-to-be bitches, know that I’m rooting for you and will clap like a monkey with a set of tambourines when you make it; but for now it’s good-bye, I have many, many books to write.