Lenny Kravitz and me

As soon as the calendar is turned to the page for September, like many people, I begin to think of Autumn. Yet it’s still technically summertime, and the meteorologists have promised us another heat-wave, so really the year is less advanced than I imagine. We’re still in the third quarter, after all.

But we can’t help looking forward, can we? We have a tendency to push ahead a bit faster than we should, always looking to the future, the next thing, always rounding up. Do we have a primitive urge to be cautious going out to meet trouble before it reaches our home? We seem to over-prepare these days (think how much you buy for Christmas or any time the supermarkets are shut for just one day), and we have a tendency to expect and assume the worst, whilst professing to hope for the best.

For several months now, I’ve been thinking of myself as 58. I try to crowbar it into as many conversations as I can, as if I were 90: ‘I’m 58, you know!’  Partly it’s because I can hardly believe it myself. On the inside I feel like I’m still 14? 16? 30? But in actual fact, I’m not 58 until mid-October. So, I’m still 57, yet I actually only embraced the concept of being 57 when I was—you’ve guessed it–561∕2. I know I’m not the only one. Why do we do things like that? Is it so har dot be in the present?

Remember that old song Enjoy Yourself? The line goes, Enjoy yourself, It’s later than you think. What a depressing thought: It’s already too late. Wow. Do we want to believe that? If so, we might as well give up now; what’s the point of trying?

I’m trying to avoid the usual clichés, ‘take time to smell the roses’, ‘it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey’, but it’s quite difficult to do that and get my point across. (Yes I do have one…even if it’s a different one to my planned finishing point.)

I have a stubborn streak. I think most writers do. We need it to get us through all the demands of writing, rewriting, polishing, revising, rewriting, editing… part of me says, it’s never too late. There’s always more to come, a bit more you can do. Like a soap opera, the story never concludes, the writers just add another episode. Like the Lenny Kravitz song, It ain’t over til it’s o-o-o-over.

I’m going to live my life, and end on a cliffhanger. On my gravestone, I want the words: ‘To be continued…’

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The Long Road

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Writing a book is a process. And quite a lengthy one at that. Often we think that the difficult bit is getting the idea and setting it all down on the page. Or maybe we think the hard part is the effort of writing, day after day, week after week.

But in actual fact, writing a book is only the first half of the long process, the long road. Because after the writing comes the editing, the revising, the editing, the revising, followed by the editing and maybe some revising. Then there’s beta-reading. And leaving it to ‘mature’. Followed by some revising and possibly a bit more editing.

One day – one wonderful day – your ‘baby’ is published. And you feel like you can sit back and relax, heaving a sigh of relief as you do so.  Well, okay, maybe just for a few minutes.

Then it’s back to work. No, not on a new book! You’ve still got to promote and market this one! You need to engage readers, you need to tell the world about your book. Yes it is so, so exciting. But…

If you’re struggling in the middle of all this, if you’re wondering why it’s not fun any more, or why you feel anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted, emotional, or bewildered, and you feel that your ‘baby’ is not the cute little bundle of joy you were expecting… relax. It’s okay. You’re normal. We all feel like this sometimes.

Because, to repeat myself, it is a process.

It can be demoralising. You can end up feeling you hate your book and wondering why you didn’t stick with your day-job. In fact, I read ‘somewhere’ that if you don’t hate your book by the time it is published, you haven’t done enough work on it. I can honestly say that by the time my first book was ‘out there’ I hated the very sight of it.

But I did it. I published a book. And it was a draining, exhausting, wonderful, fulfilling, exciting process. The sense of achievement took a long time to filter through, but eventually I was able to regard my work with pride. And somehow, I managed to do it again. You will too. If I can do it, with all my ignorance, lack of skills, naivete and my lack of marketing savvy, then you most definitely can too.

So if you’re struggling. If you wonder where the magic went, and whether it’s worth all this hassle, and feel like giving up, stop worrying. You’re doing it right. This is what it’s like – this is the process. You’re doing it right. Just carry on.