ARGHHHHHH! Happy Monday! So excited to have Sarah – aka The Unmumsy Mum – on the blog today. I’ve followed and nodded along to her blog for quite a while now, and as soon as I knew she was going to release a book, I couldn’t wait! This week Sarah talks about her journey.
You Are A Writer.
I’m one of those really annoying people who became a published author without having a motivational backstory filled with disappointment and setbacks. [Sorry about that]. I think that was the reason I initially found myself feeling a bit sheepish whenever I was in the presence of other authors. You know, proper authors. Folk deserving of book deals because they had been grafting at the business of book-writing for donkey’s years before they ‘made it’. Who had worked long hours in a loveless job to pay the bills, but never once lost sight of seeing their words immortalised in print on a bookshelf somewhere. Proper authors should surely be able to recall the number of book proposal rejections they have collectively amassed – making their first published masterpieces all the more worthwhile. They are justified in their exchange of knowing glances with other authors because they have shared a steely determination to realise their book dreams.
They have waited an eternity for this break.
There have been far too many rejected proposals.
This is all they have ever wanted to do…
As a ‘hobby blogger’ – whose professional writing experience amounted to the square root of jack shit (my last pre-blog piece of writing being a GCSE English Literature exam) – I felt it would be disrespectful to join in with the look-we’ve-finally-made-it glances.
I haven’t waited an eternity for this break.
There haven’t been far too many rejected proposals (there haven’t been any).
And although I’ve always liked writing, never in a month of Sundays was I going to seriously pursue it as a vocation. I have always been far too worried about those pesky bills, taking comfort in a steady pay slip, paid annual leave and a bi-annual Performance Development Appraisal where a 1* review is highly unlikely.
In fact – and this makes me slump down into my seat in the hope of becoming invisible to those proper authors – I didn’t put any proactive legwork into getting myself an agent or a publisher because they found me. [Sorry about that, too]. Somebody once teased me that I had been handed a new career on a plate (‘You lucky bugger!’), and I couldn’t help but agree with them. Getting approached by both an agent and a publisher the very same week (and subsequently quitting my day job to write a book) is the absolute dream – the writing equivalent of being scouted.
The problem with being scouted, as I soon began to realise, was that expectations seemed somehow higher from the outset. I felt a huge amount of pressure (from myself, it has to be said!) to make a positive impression because I hadn’t spent years working tirelessly to secure a book deal. I kind of felt like I’d cheated. I would have to impress the world/his wife/his dog with my book to justify the leg up I had been given…
Fast forward nine months to today, when that book is sat proudly in bookshops and on supermarket shelves (whaaat???!!), and I think I am finally getting used to saying, ‘I am an author.’ (I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror). I have concluded that any sheepishness felt was probably rooted in my own self-doubt about my abilities as a writer. As it turns out, that writing process has provided an unofficial license to share knowing nods. Nobody handed me 320 pages on a plate and perhaps it is the standout book-writing memories – like the night I sat typing until 1am before setting my alarm for 5am (to finish a crucial chapter before the kids woke up) – that have helped me to finally relax into feeling deserving of the author title. I now have an understanding of the blood, sweat, tears and yelling-at-husbands that goes into writing a book, and if I’m honest, this is something I had massively underestimated when I was dancing around my kitchen singing ‘I’ve got a book deal.’
Having never before been edited, I savoured the opportunity to have my words tweaked and sent back to me looking polished. I discovered that I had been incorrectly using ‘whilst’ instead of ‘while’ my entire life, which is an extremely basic error but one I told my editor I was not surprised at ‘given that I am not really even a writer!’
“What are you on about, ‘not a writer?’” She laughed out loud over the phone. “You write stuff and people read it. You are a writer.”
She was right. I didn’t start from the bottom and I didn’t stare rejection in the face but I did put hundreds of hours into an online blog and it just so happened that a random matrix of social media sharing landed something I’d written on the Facebook timeline of people willing and able to give me that leg up.
Regardless of the backstory, regardless of whether you unwaveringly tried for ten years to get published or had a lucky break as a blogger, I take my hat off to anybody who has ever written a book. I was silently toasting you all whilst drinking fizz on publication day. Sorry, while drinking fizz. Or is it whilst? No it’s definitely while. I think…where the hell is my editor?