When I was a child and dreamed of being a writer, I had a very clear picture in my head of what that would be like. I would sit at my desk in my country house with my cats at my feet and surrounded by beautiful tomes. I would write my novels and devote my time to pouring out stories whilst staring dreamily into the distance over the sea. Back in London my editors would jump for joy when a bundle of my latest words landed upon their desks and they would immediately leap into action to get them into print……
Now I am a “real” writer I know these to be wistful imaginings that are probably best left to works of fiction. I have learnt many things about being a writer since the publication of my first book, and so I felt that I should share a few of these key points with anyone else who shares the dreamy fiction of scribbling away in a tower, cottage or Parisian garret for wheelbarrow-loads of cash.
|"Stop thy twittering, for my musings are greatly anticipated and these distractions are too plentiful"|
These are the things that I now know;
- Nothing moves slower than publishing except possibly glaciers. No, I take that back, even glaciers move faster so don’t sit there waiting for a reply as your muscles may atrophy and you won’t be able to write anything at all.
- Social media is both distraction and a method of staying sane. It will become your staffroom and (like a real staffroom) there are times you will want to pour tea over someone’s head or punch them square in the face. Thankfully unlike a staffroom you are so far removed from flesh people that it's easier to log-out than start a fight.
- You will gush and praise other writers who have achieved amazing things, whilst keeping a small wax effigy of them in your desk drawer to stick with pins.
- Travel is not an exciting time full of champagne and moving scenery. It is actually an endless round of hefting your bags down long corridors, squashing into small seats, smiling at strangers and trying not to look like you want to strangle someone.
- Schools will treat you like a goddess, or like a demon. At times you will be loved and semi-worshipped, others you will be shunned as if you are carrying a rare and incurable virus and you will spend an inordinate amount of time wandering around school corridors lost and alone like the spectre of a former pupil.
- There will be times when you realise that you haven’t left the house in days. The cat will think you actually are furniture and the sun will dazzle you as you emerge like a mole into the air.
- Biscuits are breakfast food, and cereal is fine for dinner.
- If you still wear your underpants they are not pyjamas, they are house trousers. If they have pockets it's fine to wear them round the shops.
- You will talk to your characters, and not be in the least bit alarmed when they talk back.
- People will think you are a rich as Croesus and will regard the holes in your socks and jacket as one of your “artistic quirks” and not a sign of poverty.
- Sometimes you will forget how to have conversations and will accidentally be rude or unaware of real-life events. Sometimes you will do this deliberately, and you can totally get away with this.
- Research trips are awesome.
- Notebooks and pens are infused with something akin to crack cocaine. It’s the only thing that can possibly explain their addictive quality.
- Everyone you meet will a) have an idea for a story, b) have an opinion about what you should do with your life, c) plan to “write a book someday”.
- You will lose the ability to say no (“of course I can do that by Friday”) and will rashly say yes to all sorts of things that you wouldn’t ask a normal person to do (“dress as a rabbit and hop around the playground whilst juggling? Of course I can do that.”)
- You will probably make up names for the people who pass by outside your window, and most of these will be insulting.
- Wine is one of your five a day (grapes!)
- Holidays, bank holidays and weekends no longer exist.
- Blogging is like talking to friends.
- Cats and dogs are your real friends.
I’m sure that you can think of many more, but I have deadlines pressing and a conference to get to and notebooks to buy and this wine isn’t going to drink itself…..
Children’s writer and librarian