I recently answered some questions for an interview and one of the questions was: ‘if you think about your life as a writer, what has changed?’ I took this to mean, is it what you expected. it made me think about my early conception of what it was like to be a writer compared with my actual experience.
Well to begin with, when I first began to dream of being a writer, I imagined a publishing contract with a traditional publisher, because at the time, back when word processing was a lad, that was pretty much the only choice. Typewriters were standard and ‘hard copy’ was the accepted format. Indie publishing had not even been dreamed of. So that’s Huge Difference #1
Huge Difference #2 is I imagined a lovely glamorous wealthy life, mainly based on TV shows like Murder She Wrote and Agatha Christie’s character, Ariadne Oliver. I pictured myself older, more sophisticated, swanning around in a twinset and pearls, solving mysteries and now and again tapping out a few words on a vintage collectible typewriter in some exotic location. Or maybe my office would look out onto some stretch of golden and unspoilt beach, or I would be glamping in a cosy log cabin in a woodland retreat. I never imagined fighting my family for my session on the family PC with my old cat snoozing half across the keyboard or sitting in front of the screen.
Of course that was a few years ago. Now I have my own office. It’s three feet wide by five feet long. Okay, yes, it’s a cupboard with the door taken off. But it’s mine, all mine. The internet connection is a bit sketchy and I daren’t move any of my books in case I can’t fit them back in place again. Also, one of the piles of books is actually holding up the shelf above my computer so definitely can’t move those! (There’s a reason I have more than one copy of my favourite books.)
Huge Difference #3 I imagined book signings, supermarket openings, literary festivals and panels, maybe even radio and TV appearances and book tours. I imagined champagne flowing at swanky hotels, book launches with celebrities where I give tearful but grateful thanks to all who have helped me. Be honest–we all thought that once upon a time, didn’t we? Well, I’ve just done my first interview, so who knows… I do fondly imagine being a in lift and someone timidly saying to me, ‘Excuse me, are you THE Caron Allan?’ to which I will humbly admit that I am she. (*snorts inelegantly in derision*)
I remember reading an article once in which a writer said she was in a bookshop and saw someone pick up a copy of one of her books. The writer went over and said, ‘I’m the writer of that book,’ and the ‘fan’ looked her up and down then put the book back on the shelf and hurried away. See, it’s not only aspiring writers who can have unreal expectations…
I certainly imagined living in luxury off my massive royalty payments. Hopefully that will happen one day, if I work really hard. At the moment I can just about afford a medium cappuccino at Coffeebucks on my royalty payments each month.
So yes, in some ways there is a huge discrepancy between what I once imagined my life as a writer would be, and the reality I live now day to day. But I believe things will change. I will continue to write hard and try to learn and improve my skills as much as I can. I will try to promote my work and be market savvy, and hope to reach and appeal to more and more people. Being a glass-half-full kind of gal, I think that if my books are holding up the shelves in my office, at least I can be grateful that I have books, and shelves and an office of my own. And incredibly, wonderfully, there are a few people around the world who are enjoying my work.
So yes, I am. I’m living the dream.