You know, I almost forgot I had a website. Not through any lack of interest, but simply because with the passing of my mum, relocation to the south-east of England and the busiest couple of years of work I’ve ever had, each minute of every day was booked and paid for, (and sometimes doubly so!).
Such demands could have extended on into the future. A boom business year particularly for events, stretched ahead and I had a house to extend and decorate. But then came Covid-19.
It is important at the outset of any mention of a pandemic to make clear that having survived it (so far) with loved ones intact, I have little to complain about. Not everyone has been so fortunate and only the extraordinary work of some amazing people has helped mitigate what have been even worse. In fact for me, this extended period of time at home has meant that I’ve at last had time to catch up with myself and to take a breath – albeit often through a face mask. In fact, when work is all but totally suspended from life, there remains plenty of space to consider other things. Like when might work return? Is there a chance it won’t? And toilet rolls? Really people?
All of which brings me back to the website’s content folder for the first time since early 2018. So here’s a thought:
What If I Wrote A Book And Nobody Came?
I wrote a book once – sent it off to publishers & agents and everything. I must have sent out 50 copies of my manuscript. Nothing. The world appeared deeply unimpressed. So I wrote another one. You may have read it – though probably not.
The thing about any creative endeavour is that you cannot guarantee anyone else will ever give a damn. I’ve always believed that you must make peace very early on with the very likely reality that what matters so much to you, may simply never mean a thing to another human being.
With Interloper I knew that I must split the dream into two halves: creation and then communication. I would have lots of control over the first part – and very little over the latter.
This is why I knew I must have a complete first draft before anyone would see my work. I think the initial version of Interloper stretched to more than 180,000 words. Writing took 5 years of holidays and where I could find them, evenings and weekends. But it was my dream. It was something I could create without compromise from nothing.
The process of communicating my little project then moved on to distribution of the manuscript. Just as before, I found breaking through the publishing industry’s defences to be an almost impossible task. Having made the rounds of London’s agents again, I could split responses into either ‘not our kind of thing’ or complete silence. It was hugely disheartening, but I’d been prepared this time – and anyway, I at least had a complete version of my tome, even if nobody else would get to see it.
The next time you hear about the stellar success of a new author, bear in mind that somewhere in the tale of how their inaugural project came to be, lies a slice of good fortune. Publishing is no meritocracy. As much as everyone wants to be on board with the next new thing, nobody can afford to be wrong very often. Thus, for the miniscule number of first projects to reach a bookshelf, there will have been a relationship or champion to carry it part of the way. Somebody knew somebody who knew somebody who glanced at a couple of paragraphs and then convinced another to give it a go.
I eventually did find an agent prepared to help. And here’s my slice of luck; we’d met through my work. I had been able to help a client with her film project and then years later dropped into a conversation that I’d written a little something. She gave it a read and we were able to develop things from there.
In the end, Interloper may not have changed the world in ways I had dared to dream. But it did find a dedicated audience and some lovely reviews. Moreover, it has been the realisation of a lifelong ambition. Something in which I had invested my time, energy, and heart – and eventually saw become real.
Will it ever mean as much to anyone else as it does to me? No, it won’t. But that’s my point. This is why creativity must come first – and be its own reward. I believe that completing something to the equivalent of a first draft status has to be enough to satisfy the endeavour. If we’re lucky, it may just be a beginning.