It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you wiggle your ears?
Show me a writer that doesn’t want to be read, and I’ll show you a liar.
Writing is hard work. It’s nearly midnight, I’ve done a full days work, come home, spent time with my wife, and now I’m blogging to warm up my brain (I don’t want to pull a brain muscle after all) before I begin the slow slog of writing and editing until about 4am, at which point I’ll crawl away from my computer as a husk of a man. Then I’ll sleep for six hours, and then I’ll begin the process again.
So why would anyone put themselves through all of that to write whatever-the-damn-thing-is unless they thought someone was going to read it at the end?
Personally, I’d love to see someone reading my work on the tube (although ironically I’d also love to be driving around in an Aston Martin once I’m published so, you know, I guess you have to choose your fantasies). I’d love squillions of people to know my characters. I’d love the adoration and the adulation. Who wouldn’t?
I know people who’ve wanted to write a whole novel just in the hope that one particular person would pick it up and read it. And react to it. And understand it. Understand them. And that’s fine too. That to me makes perfect sense. That’s a good use of time. But to write something for nobody to read? That’s borderline insane, in my book.
To mangle the old phrase about trees falling in forests, does an unread story even exist, really?
And to those people who ‘wrote for themselves’ I say: no you didn’t. Or if you did, it was a really dumb idea. The art and beauty and tragedy of writing comes from the gargantuan struggle of trying to wrestle a perfect thought out of your brain and onto the page. The truth is that a story is always going to be infinitely better inside the writer’s brain, but unfortunately nobody else can see it. Nobody’s life will be touched, influenced or improved unless the writer sacrifices hours and days and weeks and months trying to recreate that perfect idea into a set of jumbled words and phrases. If you really didn’t want anyone else to read it, then you were an idiot (or a masochist) to wrestle it out of your head.
I tell you all of this, because I’ve had remarkable, beautiful, kind, generous feedback over the last few days. The kind my fragile ego lives for. Writers’ Cocaine. People have been reading the madness that I poured onto the page and encouraging me. Helping, and influencing and coaching and cheering me on. And that’s the cocaine. That’s the wonderful elixer that writers crave.
My friend Clare Banks finished reading a second Lockhart story. That in itself is great encouragement. Then she wrote to me:
Just finished Fearless and it’s bloody fantastic. I absolutely love Charlie Lockhart. What a guy. Even when I guessed how he was going to [SPOILER REMOVED], I was getting so excited to see how Tyler would react. It really put elements of Lockhart’s character in Helter Skelter into perspective for me. You are a brilliant writer. Thank you for letting me read your work.
Who wouldn’t crave feedback like that? Thank you Clare, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me ever. Fact.
Meanwhile, another friend, Allegra, spent three hours at her kitchen table with me this week, living and breathing and challenging every word in my third story. What a great editor she’ll make. It’s a wonderful thing when people step into the world you created while writing.
And finally Camilla – my brilliant agent – took me for coffee and chewed through some pin point insightful notes about the structure of the story. Again, incredible. And exciting. And magical.
Anne Enwright said, ‘Only bad writers think that their work is really good.’
That’s as maybe, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to at least give your work a chance. It’s okay to tell people you like it. Be bold. Get it out for the lads. Flaunt it. Champion it and love it and don’t think that somehow by letting it into the daylight it’ll crumble to dust (even if it’s a vampire MS).
And so to bed, perchance to dream. But not before a strong coffee and a couple of thousand words. Good night, sweet internet.