In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.Abraham Maslow
You may (or may not!) have noticed that I didn’t write my regular blog post last week – unusual for me, as I try to keep up a weekly practice of posting. I did have a good excuse, though, as I’ve been working on an exciting project – or at least, a project that feels exciting if you’re me! I’ve decided to publish the book I’ve been writing for some time now (you’ll find out more about that process here, and here, and no doubt you’ll hear a lot more about it in the future). Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working with Jen at Fuzzy Flamingo to turn my huge Word document into a book, with a cover, and other exciting things.
The process has been more than that, though – it’s also been about me moving out of a place of fear and into the realms of uncertainty – as well as growth I hope. It would have been easy for me just to hide my manuscript under a bed somewhere (in fact for many months, that was the preferred option in my mind). The reasons for this all stemmed from fear, a series of what-ifs that clouded my vision and perspective. What if I publish the book and no one buys it? What if someone does buy it and gives the whole thing a resounding thumbs-down? What if people laugh at my turn of phrase, my storytelling, my characters? What if I end up with egg on my face? What if I’m humiliated?
What if I fail?
As unappealing as these possibilities sound, I finally had to snap myself out of this way of thinking, and accept that the world does not hinge on my success or failure as a writer. And while failure can be embarrassing, most people, I think, have more to worry about than revelling in the humiliation of someone else. A more likely outcome is that some readers will enjoy the book, some won’t, some will be ambivalent – that’s just the nature of writing. The alternative to accepting this reality is a pile of manuscripts left hidden forever under beds.
And in truth, I’m quite proud of my story, and in what I have achieved in writing it – it hasn’t been easy. The last two weeks in particular have been an exercise in stamina, during which I’ve spent most of my time in jogging trousers, chugging down coffee at a singularly alarming rate. I’m about to step into a situation where in a writerly sense, I am naked – exposed and vulnerable. The huge paradox of writing is wanting people to read your stories, while at the same time feeling horrified by the thought of exactly that.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more about the book in the run-up to publication. What I can tell you right now is that it’s the first part of a Young Adult fantasy based on the folklore of Caithness. I’ve used local tales, passed down through generations, as a jumping-off point for a story of my own making. And while the book sits in the Young Adult bracket (around secondary school age and upwards), I do hope that it will be appealing to other age groups. I’m in my forties, and read Young Adult novels all the time!
When I look back at my younger self now, I see a girl who wanted to be a writer. A girl who dreamt of being a journalist, until she came to fear that her sensitive nature would be a blocker to that path. A girl who started to write a novel, something awful about a gang of teenagers in a graveyard, that soon found its way to the rubbish bin. But I also see in that girl a glimpse of my future, a germ of the story I have before me now.
If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that life is short, and the things we take for granted are transient. That if there are things we want to do, we ought to do them in the here and now.
Forward is forward, progress is progress – and everything is learning.
If I had some words for my younger self they would be these ones:
‘Keep moving forward, and be brave.’
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