When I was thirteen my cousin gave me a diary as a Christmas present and I was compelled to fill every lovely pale blue line up with what I’d done during that day. Even if it meant just writing “cleaned out gerbils” and “walked dog” or “fell out with Debbie/Hilary/Julie on the bus to school”. Whatever – it didn’t matter. I had a quest and that was to fill that enticingly empty void with my achievements, however small. After a while I started to write down how I ‘felt’ about what I’d done and then slipped easily into what I ‘thought’ about how I felt. And so evolved my great journey through the landscapes of my vast imagination via the medium of prose. Sometimes even accompanied by the odd poem. It was like a drug. The more I wrote, the more I found I had to write and had to say and get out of my head and onto paper.
After a while, five lines just wasn’t enough to empty what I had thrashing about in my head and so I bought myself a foolscap pad of paper and a ring binder. I can still remember the feel and the smell of that pale green binder and how thrilled I was at writing enough to tear a sheet off and secure the page within this new home. I’d write and write and write endlessly about how I was feeling; how something insignificant to someone else during the course of an average day meant so much to me and I ended up calling the whole thing “In Lieu of…” which is precisely what it was - filling the space that should have been a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and someone to turn to – which I never felt I had growing up. My writing became my best friend, my ally, my passion – and it could never hurt me or let me down.
That writing was my Puppy Love. When everything seemed possible and Happy Endings were a given and bad things could be mended with the thought of a new day or an Iambic Pentameter.
The first book I wrote took me four years to finish. Which, now reading back, was a naive and clumsy attempt which spilt far too much over into my personal life for anyone else to find of interest. Of course the humour was there but I’d taken it too seriously for it to ever amount to anything other than a personal memoir and I wasn’t surprised when it was rejected by every Literary Agent I approached with it. But, like every failed love affair, lessons were learnt; I wised up and moved on.
My second book was the brightest, breeziest, wackiest, happiest bag of words I’d ever shaken up and let spill out on paper. I loved every fun-fuelled minute and I loved that everyone who read snippets of it loved it too. It was the Love Affair to Remember. And when that one was rejected I just thought “ha, they don’t know what they’re missing”. But if publication was my goal, then I needed to try and fit what I wrote within the market formula.
I got as far as I could with book number three but it was like wading uphill through treacle wearing Wellington boots. I knew this could work. I knew this was what I should be writing if I wanted serious published stuff. I tried, I really did - but it exhausted me and it just didn't feel 'right'. I couldn’t finish it. 85 thousand words in and I was beginning to resent the very thought of it. I didn’t want to answer its phone calls and I tried to ignore it every time I saw it in my documents list. And besides a newer, fresher, younger thing had sparked my interest and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It kept me awake at nights.
I never meant for it to happen but I cheated on my 85thou WIP. I started writing my new fresh young thing and I am once more in love. Okay, so we’re only 24thou words into it but it’s still the last thing I think of at night, the first thing in the morning and sometimes I get dizzy with the excitement of it all.
It may all end in tears, of course it could. It could be rejected by every Literary Agent in the book again but, you know what? I don’t mind – not so much this time anyway – because what we have for the moment is real and true and it gives me butterflies and okay, so sometimes I worry that what we’re doing might be wrong, but we work through it and we’re still smiling. And that’s what matters, right?
Ah, long, long live love!