“Oh, aren’t you lucky to be doing the thing you love!”
A well-meaning yet slightly irritating woman pronounced this to me the other day and I bristled at her words. Of course, being unfailingly British in my inability to express the more robust of emotions (unless I’ve had a couple of gins, obviously) I simply smiled politely in response. But, actually, inside I was quietly incensed. Luck has played the most minor of roles in the continuing chronicles of my becoming a writer.
Without wishing to delve too far into the more personal aspects of my life, I can assure you that the sacrifices I have made in order to chase my dream have been substantial. In fact, to even give the dream a glimmer of hope of survival, I gave up pretty much everything I had – personally, professionally and materially. For reasons best left in the past, I had to start my life again from scratch if I was to have any chance of achieving my goal. And then I had to work at it. I mean really work at it. There are no short cuts to getting better at writing. Not only are there no short cuts, the long way around often leads you right back to where you started. I worked through the failures, through the dark nights of self-doubt (those never quite go away, but one gets better at ignoring them) and through the feelings of utter futility. This is what I want to do. And I’m going to give it a bloody good go.
For a long time, other than my immediate family there was only one person who seriously believed in what I was doing – the man who would later become Head Porter, Paul Butterworth. There was more than one occasion where his stern words and enthusiasm prevented me from giving up completely. I am forever in his debt for that.
Paul Butterworth. Legend.
Aside from the emotional wrangling – which subsides considerably after a bit and only makes occasional reappearances – there is the sheer number of hours which must be devoted to the cause. Writing is bloody time consuming, which often seems to surprise people, for some reason. Social occasions come and go unnoticed. Romances are abandoned and lovers sacrificed upon the alter of literary pursuit. I don’t actually sacrifice my lovers, of course. Especially not the ones who are any good. (There really are not many lovers. At all. Despite what popular opinion may tell you.)
And it’s not just the actual writing – there is the research, the revision and the rewriting, too. That’s before you even start to think about luring in an audience with blogs, social media and absolutely anything else one can think of to get those precious eyes on your work. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve resorted to a degree of nudity to achieve this in the past. Hey, whatever works.
But there is little point in attracting people to your wares if the wares themselves are found wanting. So, I have invested enormous amounts of time and effort into producing high quality, regular content not only to keep people coming back for more, but also to prove to myself that I can do it.
So no, I haven’t been especially lucky, at least no more than anyone else. Of course, we all benefit from the seldom smile of the fates from time to time – but fortune favours the brave, so if you want a bit of luck I suggest you put on your fighting pants and get out there and wrestle the bugger to the floor yourself.