Well, here it is at last: the final week before I return to the daily grind, the rat race, the spirit-sapping, temper-testing, stress bucket that is paid employment. And what better way to celebrate this milestone than to throw myself out of the nearest window?
Sadly, however, the nearest window is right in front of me and a mere seven feet or so from the ground. And there’s a plant pot just underneath and I’d be bound to end up crushing the miniature daffs. And they’ve only been out for a week. It hardly seems fair.
So fie to window jumping! Instead, I thought I’d use this post to look back over what I’ve learned over the last eight months. Here it is, pop pickers, one last list before I go over the top…
1. I am not my job. I’ve always suspected as much, but it turns out it’s really true! I don’t need validation through a performance marking. I don’t need to feel like a failure if I haven’t listened to the Today programme. Guess what? Lots of people don’t! Lots of intelligent people! I know some of my colleagues won’t believe this, but honestly, it’s true. I’ve met them!
2. My writing is not a complete dead loss. I’ve finished a book. A whole one. And I’ve got an agent and everything. And a publisher! Okay, a French one not a British one, but still. That means I can’t be completely rubbish. It does mean that, right?
3. How I love praise! I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it. It embarrasses me too, and I never really know how to reply – but oh, how it motivates me! If only someone had told me I was good at my job – unequivocally, mind, without any of the ands or buts – in say, the last five years, I might still care about my career in the civil service. I only say “might”.
4. It’s not all about me. No matter how “self-directed” I’d like to think I am when writing, if I want my work to see the light of day – at least through the traditional publishing route – the time comes when I have to place the product of my blood, sweat and tears in other people’s hands. I may be closer to being mistress of my own destiny, but I’m not its absolute dictator.
5. That thing about perseverance over talent? Oh yes. Okay, it’s hard to judge talent, but there’s absolutely no doubt about the other bit. The emotional see saw of the submissions process is like nothing else: from the kind of happiness that makes you wake up with a smile on your face each morning (the editor’s taking it to acquisitions!) to feeling like a deluded, talentless, idiot (they’re not making an offer). There’s only one way to deal with it: cry like a baby, then dry your tears and get on with the rewrite. Happily, though…
6. There are a lot of lovely people out there. There’s a vibrant, passionate community of writers at all stages in their careers ready to offer guidance and support. There are bloggers, and writing groups, and book clubs, and insightful people who love to read. And they’re all producing a wealth of content, all that wonderful stuff to learn from, accessible in a few clicks of a mouse.
And that brings me to you.
When I started this blog I did it because I’d heard that it was important for aspiring writers to have a “platform”. I didn’t realise that it would help me find my voice as a writer, or that I’d come into contact with so many people who were prepared to give their time to read my work, to give me their thoughts, and even to come back and do it more than once. I didn’t realise how much pleasure and stimulation and kindness I’d find in my own little WordPress family. It’s been a blast.
I’m going to have to parcel out my time more sparingly in the months ahead, so there’ll be fewer entries here. But I’m intending to post at least once a month, just to
whinge let you know how I’m getting on. And I’ll be spending my evening commute catching up on what my fellow bloggers are up to.
And there’s one thing I’ll be holding onto when I’m standing on that platform on Monday morning. It’s not rocket science, and it sounds annoyingly like one of those irritating posters they stick up on the walls of gyms with some smug sod climbing a rock face or surfing a massive wave. But still, it’s what I’ve learned.
I’ve walked away once and the world didn’t end. And I can do it again.