I’ve been up late the past few nights, working on the draft of my current novel which is going out to beta readers this week. Maybe it’s tiredness – maybe I’m feeling a bit vulnerable about writing in a new genre – but whatever has been going on in my head, yesterday I seriously considered giving up being an author.
It’s like this: You work on something for months or even years, polishing it, making it the best you can. Finally your book goes out into the wider world – and this is the same whether you’ve self-published or published traditionally. You’ve done all you can to make it the best you can, but even so, someone who has most likely never written a book themselves, maybe never done anything truly creative in their life, who is not a literary critic and has paid £1.99 to download your book, can completely wipe the floor with you – say whatever they like about your writing and you as a person – in public. On one of the biggest websites in the world. For anyone to read. And there is nothing you can do about it, no comeback, you just have to suck it up because you dared to publish a damn book.
It’s not just the vulnerability, though. Lately I’ve been thinking about how I used to write all the time, even when there was no reason for it. I always had a book on the go, a notepad by the bed, characters vying for attention in my head. I did it for the love of it, because not writing would have been like not breathing to me. I’ve been pondering this for a while now: what actually is the point of making up a story? Why do writers write? To entertain people? So you can sell it and make money? Or just because you love to write, because you are compelled to write? Prior to May 16th 2012 this last reason was the explanation for my writing activities – there was no readership, no expectation of publication. I just wrote stuff.
And now? Well, it is different now. When you’re writing for publication there is a different vibe that’s hard to explain. Maybe it is the self-publishing aspect of it – perhaps I’d feel less exposed if I had an agent and a publisher and a whole raft of people involved in the process, making decisions, sharing the responsibility. And the flack, if it’s not well-received. Or maybe that’s got nothing to do with it. I’ve never been very good at having a job, you see. And now there is a plan, there are readers, there are deadlines and expectations – and royalties, which are fantastic of course, but all this adds up to a J.O.B.
Well, I’m far from lazy – hard work doesn’t faze me one bit. But I lay in bed last night and thought about giving it up and doing something else. I love starting businesses, I could turn my hand to anything pretty much – I have so many ideas and projects I’d hardly be short of things to fill my time and turn a profit. And no, I didn’t come to any conclusions. Perhaps it will all turn out to be nothing more than new book/new genre jitters – hopefully the responses from my beta readers will reassure me that I haven’t been wasting the last six months of my life and Murder at the Maples will make it out into the world. What do you think? Have you ever felt like giving something up but found it hard to understand exactly why? Looking forward to reading your thoughts, Jo x