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Hiding my truths within a fiction based on a truth

The Nile, Egypt

The Nile near Aswan.

At dinner last night* the father had all these questions about my novel. That’s my third novel for anyone who’s keeping count (probably only my father), which is a prequel to my second novel (which currently exists as two chapters – the first and the last – but was once 100,000 words long) and is nothing to do with my first novel which once had a youth orchestra play a piece composed for it. None of these novels is published of course. None of them have ever got to a point where anyone who isn’t my father might believe them finished.

This third novel is not quite like anything that I’ve written before.

It’s not like the first novel

The first novel was set in space. It was told through the eyes of a journalist because I was trying to get some space between me and my characters. I named my protagonist after a girl I’d disliked in primary school and made her a very reluctant hero. She spent the first half of the book trying not to be involved with the story line. The real main character was of course an intergalactic princess. My sister suggested that maybe she was too rebelious.

The father – my number one fan – read the book in tears on a transatlantic flight, and although he might well now deny it, had one critique. He said it lacked sex.

He was right

So much of human motivation stems from our need to have romantic relationships, or at least get a physical kick from being with someone. However, and this is quite a large however, sex is hard to write into a book at a stage in your life when you haven’t ever had a real boyfriend. And I don’t mean real as in not imaginary, I mean real in this context as someone you have a relationship with and don’t just label with the word because it’s convenient when it comes to surviving the hostile world of the school playground.

For the second book I came back down to Earth

I wrote it in my final year at university when I ought to have been mathematically modelling solar flares. It’s set in Ancient Egypt. My father read it of course. He loved it. He thought that I should quickly get it finished, published and make lots of money from it. He has great faith in my writing. (He’s an excellent father and amateur literary critic.) And at least that was my impression of his opinion. The sex, however, he said made him uncomfortable.

You really can’t win when you’re a daughter writing a book read by your father but I believe it serves him right for embarrassing me the first novel round.

So, the third book

I haven’t let my father read it. In fact, I have been avoiding writing it. When I’m writing a novel I get consumed by it. My mindneeds a huge amount of space to write, and it hasn’t exactly felt spacious recently.

It’s often the getting started that’s hard, and not because I have writer’s block – that thing is alien to me thank goodness – but because to write it I have to read it and to read it means I’m confronted by what I’ve written. And it’s not just a case of lacking self-confidence.

I’ve tended to pour myself into writing it at points over the last couple of years where my mind has desperately needed to expel thoughts and feelings but was too ashamed to put them straight into my diary. This does not lead to a tidy, structured novel, and restructuring and cutting has been an ordeal. That said, those horrible moments, now rewritten, make up the backbone of the novel I wanted to write  and proved uncuttable.

To write the third book I had to switch to the third person. I couldn’t write in the first person. I couldn’t put myself though such an agony. And all the things I wanted to write, I couldn’t have made happen to one character. I feel it’s much too much feeling to believe from one character, even if all the character’s feelings do in fact stem from me.

And the sex? Well. Not too surprisingly I’m not currently the biggest fan of sex. Although since it’s a book set in the royal courts in Ancient Egypt sex is hardly something I can just skip. I’m sure there were some asexual people in Ancient Egypt, but this isn’t a novel about them.

At dinner last night the father kept asking when he gets to read it

I read it myself at the beginning of this week and have been writing it obsessively ever since. He’s noticed and become excited that it may, finally, be finished. Meanwhile I keep wondering what he’s going to think of it all. I wince when I’m reading it, and I wrote it. I know what’s coming up.

But one of those cliche phrases points out that you should write what you know, and I’ve come to know things I would’t want to read. And yet maybe the reason I write this novel and these characters is because they can house much stuff that people shy away from, yet make it a bit more palatable. It’s a story about people keeping secrets and holding themselves in shame. It’s a book about not talking, not trusting, and the power of one human being over another.

It’s not autobiographical, yet it is a reflection of what I know.

And yet, all that ‘stuff’ is part of me. If it’s not seen, if these feeling aren’t recognised and accepted, then I’m not either. Which is why, eventually, I’ll have to let it be read.

 

*I wrote this post a week or so ago.

 

 

Do you write, and if so, why?

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Prove yourself wrong with a diary

snake skin

I keep a diary. Like everything else in my life right now, my habit of writing in it does not obey a regular pattern. It’s not an eloquent journal of events and intelligent observations. It’s a raw first draft bashed into being as I process my emotions. It consists of traditional diary entries, less traditional letters, quotes I’ve enjoyed, violent rants, considered plans, lists and maybe slightly intrusive observations of strangers made on trains, planes and from the corners of coffee shops. This makes it the closest I’ve got to an honest reflection of how I actually think.

Primarily, I keep this notebook because it allows me to experiment with words and and ideas on a page which magically enhances my clarity of thought. An unexpected benefit however has recently emerged: my diary entries are more accurate than my memory.

The memory that lies

Recently, a friend told me (and it was implied by another) that I had approached a particular situation with a less than ideal attitude. Because such an attitude matches with my known past behaviours I didn’t question it. I absorbed the criticism and let it sink in. I chastised myself for repeating the same mistakes as I have time and time before. I felt guilty and that I was making a bad situation worse by my childish and selfish ways. Was this weakness becoming more prominent with time or was I just becoming more aware of it. In either case, how did I overcome it. I constructed a reading list and an action plan.

When, later, I flicked back through my diary, I read my description of my emotions preceding and proceeding the event in question. It surprised me. No, stunned me. My fears, apprehensions, desires and other emotions contrasted with what had been assumed. Assumptions I’d unquestioningly believed. My attitude had been both much more complex and appropriate.

My memory was wrong. My friends assumptions were wrong. Decisions were being made on faulty data.

Now a wise friend questioned whether or not I perhaps lie to my diary. This is a good question asked by a good scientist. As far as I’m aware though, whilst I might omit details because I’m not yet ready to write about them, I don’t outright lie. If I write ‘I had a great day today’ I believed what I wrote at the time I wrote it.

The uncomfortable necessity of assumptions

No understanding can be made without assumptions but there’s a point when we stop recognising assumptions as assumptions and start thinking of them as facts. I’m probably guiltier of this than most people. Finding patterns is an obsession. I want to understand the story. However, making assumptions based on out-dated presumptions about someone else’s motivations is damaging. It stops us asking the question of what’s really going on here.

Assumptions are necessary if we’re going to imagine the stories that allow us to empathise with one another. I’m all for empathy, but the most important piece of the empathy puzzle, as I see it, is acknowledging that our feet don’t fit someone elses shoes. My sister’s feet are similar enough that we typically wear the same size shoes. Sometimes I use those squidgy insoles that stop your feet aching if you’re strutting around in heels for a long time, but other times my sister complains that I stretch them. My experience walking in her shoes is very much different to her experience walking in the same shoes.

On discussing how to approach a study of a subjective experience such as happiness, psychologist Daniel Todd Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness states, “In short, if we adhere to the standard of perfection in all our endeavours, we are left with nothing but mathematics and the White Album.” Therefore, we can expect to make some mistakes from time to time about others.

The future of the diary

Yet what I believed I’d felt like and the words I chosen to describe the experience as it was happening to me were so astoundingly different. This experience has shaken me. It threw me into a Socrates feeling of I know I know nothing. If I know so little about how I felt a mere two months ago, how can I make decisions based on what I thought I felt years ago?

Why does it happen? My hypothesis is that I’m most susceptible to remembering my emotions wrong when I am insecure about how I feel. In other words, when there’s a contrast between what I think I should feel and what I actually feel. This is particularly acute when the behaviours/motivation relate to my recognised weaknesses.

In hindsight, I’m likely to label my memories as selfish, manipulative, bossy, controlling or clinging because I’m overly fearful of such descriptions. In the moment, I’m going to feel independent, clever, determined, organised or attentive.

Unwinding these practices is an impossible task, but maybe using my diary is a start.

I must stop this silliness and start being curious about what’s actually going on in my mind. What do I actually believe? Repeating mistakes of the past isn’t inevitable. Maybe actually I’ve learnt more than I give myself credit for, I just can’t see it.

The difficult part is believing in the change.

Have you tried anything similar?

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Where I write (And why it matters)

Where I write

Where I write today

The bright Spanish sun that forces me to wear the children’s factor 50 suncream on my face when I leave the house, and which has made the left side of my legs darken a little from where I sit on the balcony to read but has so far been ineffective on the right side which typically faces away from the glare, this sun is not present today.

Instead I sit inside, on my sofa, in my room below the main house, peeping out from behind barred windows, past the palm tree that stands in the front garden and a lamp post which feels it could belong in Narnia. Most days, I can see the tops of the mountains, and a statue of Jesus with his arms outspread as if he were blessing the village in the valley below, but today the trees of the hillside hide behind the mist. It might be May in Spain, but the rain is Welsh like, moving left to right across my window in great sheets like GCSE textbook diagram of a sound wave.

To compensate, I’ve wrapped myself in a huge thick fleecy blanket and nestled within the cushions. There are four, two for this sofa, two for the bed with elephants embroidered on them in what look likes an Indian design which I can’t help thinking doesn’t fit with their pastel yellow and purple colours. It’s a fabric haven in a room without carpets or curtains.

Pulled up, right against the sofa is a little black metal table, which rocks precariously as I type. I mustn’t stand too quickly or my mug of tea, made using a microwave and UHT milk, will splash and end up flooding the floor, again.

The temporary nature of the situation is further exaggerated by the music playing out of the tiny tinny speakers on my phone. Spotify has decided I’m Spanish and its recommendations are for playlists of mostly Spanish songs. Occasionally something familiar pops on and my memories drag me to a different place, a club in my home town when I was eighteen, sunbathing in the garden at university whilst mentally chastising myself for not revising, or an argument about my distinctly bland taste in music with a friend who’s own taste involves pirate songs.

Bland music though suits me when I write. Anything too rich can be too much of a distraction and writing required my concentration. It does not involve hoisting the sail on the Jolly Roger.

The importance of variety

The best advice on writing is always to write more and read more. But is it really all that simple? I’m reading How We Learn by Benedict Carey.  It’s a book I wish I’d read before doing a degree, for it has taught me that I never learnt how to learn efficiently. Surprise, surprise but practice, practice, practice isn’t the quickest way to get better at a task. And almost more startling, it’s better not to have a single dedicated quiet study space. Variety promotes learning.

The idea runs like this. If you study the same material in multiple environments, with different background noises, if you mixing up working inside and outside, switch between the bedroom, the study, the dining room table and the coffee shop, you’re somehow providing your brain with more context to the information, which makes finding a way back to it easier. Or at least according to my understanding of Carey’s analysis of the scientific studies on the effect of context.

The same goes for mood. Only studying when you are in a single mood limits the moods that your brain associates with that information. Cleverly they tested this with people who are bipolar and people who were under the influence of mind altering drugs. Mock exams are important because they train your brain to work in the environment in which you’ll have to regurgitate the same information. Laying on the beach after months of stressed revising and exams, your brain probably still contains the same information, but without the cue of mood has struggles to know where it went.

A tangent on sleep

I wonder if the idea can be transferred to sleep. Do people who regularly switch beds have an easier time finding the path to content sleep in a new environment?

There are few places I struggle to sleep. It’s not that silence and comfort aren’t extremely valuable to me, but that their absence doesn’t prevent me resting. For years I slept to the not quite audible drown of Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter in the room next door. I hate sleeping with music on, but sometimes it’s not worth the argument to get it turned off. (Although I admit there is occasionally some music or radio adverts are too aggravating for even me.) I have slept soundly in tents beside loud and drunken festivities and in the centre of London with sirens sounding all times of the night. Hostel rooms aren’t my favourite but their cheap beds and the sound of cheerful chatter at 3am have never stopped me sleeping.

Ideally I sleep in silence on my super soft foam covered mattress snuggled under my own cosy warm duvet. Here in Spain I play a game with the blanket and the window, trying to gauge whether it is going to be a warm night or a cold night. Tonight, will surely be cold after all this rain, but it is a continuous guessing game.

Tomorrow

I switch beds and desks with ease. Travel forces me to keep adapting, for I must write and sleep anywhere. When the children are at school I’ll move my computer out to the dining room, or upstairs to the living room sofa or, should that bright Spanish sun change its mind, I’ll be out in the balcony frantically scribbling into my notebook or down on the high street beneath the parasol of a little coffee shop. And just a few weeks ago, I’d never seen any of these places, and in a few weeks time I’ll take my last look at them. Where I write changes, and that, I hope, gives the end product a little more richness.

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‘Just arrived’ travel anxieties…

…and an irrational battle with the contents of the suitcase, in which there was no clear champion

Street art, Malaga, Spain

Time to take a deep breath.

I’m many miles from where I woke up this morning. After a bout of being home in England, and feeling comfortable in my surroundings, I find myself face to face with a large mirror I’ve never seen before reflecting back a room which until a couple of hours ago, I’d never entered.

The clothes are the same. They’re flung haphazardly across an unfamiliar bed as if war broke out of the suitcase. It’s the electric plug converter’s fault. It was hiding. Then it took me so long to find the light switch I started to worry I was going mad.

What sort of room has it’s only light switch nowhere near the door?

All at once the strange environment (which really isn’t all that strange) seemed overwhelming. Everyone is far away and I am alone. I want to tell the cheerful Brazilian chap, who’s helpfully pointing out great places for tapas on the map, to please shut up.

I don’t. I want to know where he recommends and I’m curious to understand his adopted city. Plus, he seems lovely.

Part of my grouchiness is a lack of sleep. It’s very rare I cannot sleep, but the night before I fly it’s guaranteed. I keep on waking and prodding my phone to see the clock, paranoid that I’m going to miss my flight. You would have thought with the amount of flying I’ve done recently I’d get over this.

It’s ironic that the time I came closest to missing the flight I actually arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. So much time that I treated my sister to a proper breakfast. We relaxed, started chatting about our plans and lo and behold when we finally thought to look at the screen our flight to Vienna was being boarded.

None of my many alarms failed me this morning, but it was still dark and cold outside all the same and I still awoke, worrying, many times throughout the night.

It’s hard to remember that worry is entirely internally generated and unnecessary once when there’s a multitude of different alarms on different devices all set.

Arriving in Malaga, making sure the Internet works on my phone, finding an ATM and cursing as it’s stingy about the ratio of paper to Euros was all fine.

As a side note, I listened to a podcast the other day that pointed out that just because you arrive at an airport you don’t have to rush through it, you can sit down and catch your breath for a while. You don’t have to leap right into the stream of people amassed outside of the arrivals hall. I consider this wise advice.

I was also fine getting the bus and even in hopping off at the right stop. A version of ‘fine’ from the newer version of the Italian Job.

John Bridger: Fine? You know what “fine” stands for, don’t you?

Charlie Croker: Yeah, unfortunately.

John Bridger: Freaked out…

Charlie Croker: Insecure…

John Bridger: Neurotic…

Charlie Croker: And Emotional.

John Bridger: You see those columns behind you?

(Columns of San Marco and San Theodoro, St. Mark’s Square, Venice)

Charlie Croker: What about them?

John Bridger: That’s where they used to string up thieves who felt fine.

Charlie Croker: After you.

A few hours later I’m in a different state of mind.

The most important stuff has been extracted from the suitcase. I’ve had a cup of tea (there’s a packet of PG Tips here?). And taken a wander outside without following the commands of Google Maps around each corner or dragging my suitcase behind me.  I find a statue of a friendly chap playing what looks to me like a tambourine. He seems ever so jolly.

chap playing tamborine, Malaga

It feels like someone caring put together this place. Someone with an eye for detail. There are random bits of coloured tiles mashed together. It is beautiful. Floral decorations accentuate balconies and I can’t help but think that Cairo could learn a lot from the brightly coloured shutters.

I like shutters. Places with sunshine have shutters. It’s a promising sign.

Big paintings on public walls draw your eye. But so do the small flourishes on signs and doorways. Minor amusements, like the clinic for bicycles amuse me. Cambridge has one of these and both the one here and the one there have half a bicycle stuck up on the wall. Spain isn’t that far away really.

Picasso was born here.

I’m excited to step outside with my sketchbook and grateful for my paints. But not tonight.

I’m feeling happier by the time I’ve bought pasta. I shocked myself by understanding that the woman at the till was asking if I wanted a carrier bag ‘bolsa’, because it’s so similar to the Italian ‘borsa’, even without her pointing or holding out a bag (yes I know it’s a guessable question at the check-out, but still, you’ve got to appreciate the little achievements).

My spoken Spanish is non-existent, but how much I can read is a pleasant surprise. Context of course is everything.

I buy vegetables in the greengrocers. I stare at the courgette and the cucumber wondering which is which before making a random choice. I get back to the apartment in time to Skype my sister and tell her I’m well. I discover it is indeed a courgette as I hoped.

This span of traveling comes with a purpose. I’m in the city centre. My room is spacious, indeed is contains a substantive desk at which I now sit and a double bed where I shall sleep. I have books, my notebooks and a clear plan for writing. To find restaurants and bars, or a plaza with sculptures, benches and coffee shops takes no more than a minute or two, it’s all just outside my front door.

Malaga is a different colour to England. More tints than tones. Travel pours images and characters into my imagination, without which there would be no stories begging to be written. A woman harvesting herbs from her balcony. A child with his whole body pressed up against a glass pyramid twice his height, staring down through it into the roman remains below the street.

What’s more, I’m not rushed. I’ve got plenty of time to explore my surroundings, and plenty of time to sit still.

Sitting still is important too. It’s easy to talk about writing without actually putting a pen to paper, or to put a pen to paper and be prolific with the word count but stingy with the produce or quality. Well-meaning isn’t enough in practice. You can be well-meaning and still wreak havoc.

If you can’t read what I write, it doesn’t count.

My routine is broken. I’m here, free, and that means there can be no excuses and no complaints. I’ve got pages and pages of draft material that deserves a second look. My job here is to refine it and learn something from it. There’s space in my mind. Everything slows down to accommodate this shift of pace and I stare around me with wonder.

The slower pace suits my writing.

The to-do list doesn’t matter.

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“Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy.”

I’m reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a book about creativity and it’s unscientific to say the least.

It’s the self-help book like Eat, Pray, Love isn’t.

As a quick detour, it’s probably worth mentioning Gilbert’s crazy success. I’m always uncertain how to speak about Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a book that’s easy to label, and easy to complain about. It’s also brilliant marketing. It’s divisive. Some people resonate with it as a story of a woman coming to terms with herself after a divorce. With others it’s the courage to chase a dream. Others it’s a portrayal of privilege and self-absorption.

For me it’s a story about decision making.

Whether you see it as a curse or a delight, Eat, Pray, Love’s spell changes how you see Elizabeth Gilbert’s other works. I gave a sceptic my copy of The Signature of All Things to read as a dare and to make a point. My friend admitted surprise. Big Magic however, where some of the ideas are about as believable as fairy dust, is unapologetically not serious literature.

It’s a self-help book with a pink cover and no references in the back.

It talks about belief.

So I wrote it off. I’m a serious person, and thoroughly educated in the art of scientific thinking.

Then I was recommended and then lent it, by a physicist.

So I started reading, and reached the section called ‘enchantment’ which is a little too fanciful for my tastes, but the writing was pretty, at times funny and immensely easy to absorb, so I persisted. The book felt like a guilty pleasure. Something I was aware that people more intelligent than me might roll their eyes at, which would feel like they were mocking me for my reading choices and make me question my taste.

Insecurities abound. I neither need permission nor validation. Which is exactly what the book is actually about. It’s the story of owning the freedom to make what you want to make and loving it regardless. It’s a simple message and maybe it’s easy to mock the simplicity or naivety of it.

What’s more, I can’t help but link it in my mind to Murakami’s What I Think About When I Think About Running. Both are books about belief and perseverance and a pure and healthy love of writing.

Turns out I was surprised after all.

What books have you judged by the cover and been pleasantly surprised by?

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The Highly Conventional, Unconventional Path To Becoming A Writer

Why write a blog? Why write at all?

Battling grammar, learning how to use a semi-colon and spell ‘necessary’ with one collar and two sleeves, is a time-consuming business.

What’s more, it’s never-ending. However much you write, there will always more you can do. It’s a skill that can never truly be obtained, and for some reason, rather than finding that threatening, to me, it’s reassuring.

When you write, you share a bit of yourself. Publishing your thoughts and feelings to the world is a vulnerable position to put yourself in. But yet people do it with an unrelenting obsession.

Why write at all?

I have no sensible answer for this question. Instead I can only describe how the germ of writing grew within me.

In the beginning was time

It was September and I was thirteen. Of course I’d written before that, short stories and such like as children do, but in the September when I was thirteen I was finally gifted an extensive amount of free time with nobody to tell me what to do.

I wrote in blue fountain pen on white A4 printer paper using a handmade line-guide and stripy paper-clips.

That year I devoured three fountain pens, and filled a drawer with my words. I didn’t know what I was doing. I picked up notebooks and occasionally wrote in them too, but this was harder because I was scared of getting notebook writing wrong. Printer paper was plentiful and disposable.

Sometimes I kept a diary, but I’ve never been great at keeping a diary. Why it is that a diary filled with embarrassing white spaces is more tragic than a diary filled with embarrassing truths?

Sometimes I wrote about someone else’s life, often I wrote about my own, but with the added excitement of an alien abduction or the end of the world.

And then came the words

In school we wrote a story called Escape from Kraznir. A fantasy adventure inspired by Lord of the Rings. We were provided with an outline of where each chapter should be set, but the writing was all our own. Being a school project, it had to be finished and submitted.

Writing ‘the end’ was a major achievement.

Later, I learnt Microsoft Word had a word count. Over the Christmas I turned 16, I wrote 20,000 words. Maybe my parents thought I was revising for exams?

I flitted between writing on the computer and writing by hand. I gave up the fountain pens as they couldn’t cope with my aggressive hand and switched to a resilient black ballpoint pen.

I started wondering how much I’d have to write to really have a novel. I imagined hundreds of thousands of words. From the internet, I concluded 80,000. Easy. I stopped starting a new piece of writing every time I sat down and instead focused on what I was sure would be my novel.

The contradiction of education

School was as separate in my mind as the futuristic lands I wrote about. I aced my GCSEs and slid into sixth-form with ease. Maths and physics were where I excelled, they were filled with mysteries and offered problems that could be solved. I wanted to understand the solutions and knew that maths wasn’t something to fear, but was something beautiful. I loved my father’s tales of solving real life problems with calculations.

Maths can make a measurable difference.

With English I never knew what success looked like. Some nonsense about Miss Havisham’s depression.

There was no expectation that what I wrote would be read. No connection in my mind between the English we studied at school and the writing I kept hidden in the back of my cupboard. All I’d done was take childhood games and as everyone else grew up I continued playing them on my own, through the written word.

Like switching from reading out loud to reading  in your head.

And from reading to a parent, to reading with a torch beneath your duvet.

The power of supportive readers

The Midget was the first person to read my stories. This is unsurprising as she had been my original Watson. She found it amusing,  and said it was all rather rebellious. At 40,000 words the parents were given a copy to read. This was partly to justify the volume of printing they were paying for, it was also because I was slowly transitioning from solitary writing to wanting someone else to share it with.

Which was when I first decided that I ought to learn to write proper.

And is why, over the weeks of my A-level exams, I was also writing assignments for an Open University course on writing fiction.

To put all this in perspective. I told the Mother that the Open University course deadlines were two weeks after they actually were. This is the biggest lie I’ve ever told. I imagine I’m going to get a phone call from the Mother after publishing this.

Why I publish my writing on a blog

I started by reading blogs on writing fiction. Authors, and wannabe authors, have a lot to say on the art of writing. There’s a lot of people out there who are working really hard to learn to write. They, like you and me, crave feedback and appreciation for their efforts.

They’ve got some amazing advice.  Writers blog about the struggles of writing. Literary agents blog about the struggles they witness writers having.  There’s fan-fiction writers, poets, and grammar know-it-alls who will tell you how to use a semi-colon. Traditional published authors and self-published authors. Many people adore writing.

I was amazed by all of them.

And suddenly I was no longer writing alone.

The gap between my writing and writing that’s smooth enough to read fluently still existed, but I knew how to improve.

I timidly began asking for help and started this blog to join them.

How I got paid to blog

It shouldn’t have been surprising that after three years studying physics, and with two drafted novels, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I imagine the education system, at least in England, is really great if you’re the sort of person who works in a linear fashion. But that’s not me.

I graduated and a bit of a wobble ensued. I wasn’t a writer because I wasn’t a good writer. I wasn’t a physicist because I failed to care enough.

The careers advisor despaired and suggested counselling – I’m not joking.

Eventually, after much pacing, driving to Naples and back and a lot of writing, I got a job in marketing. They wanted someone who would be great at website analytics and not daunted by a little HTML. I wanted to keep writing. It seemed like a great compromise.

What’s more, it meant I could also live near the man I love.

When real life practice really counts

A Canadian woman sat beside me in the office. I was immediately in awe. She had a thorough education in creative writing. She could proofread, with fancy marks, in different styles and to the requirements of different continents. She was also tasked with editing what wrote and making it publishable on a corporate blog.

What’s more, she had written a novel, self-published it and was making money from it.

Time passed. I started debates about Oxford commas, and judged magazines who wanted me to buy advertising from them on whether their sales representatives could punctuate.

I became the one who did the editing.

Knowing about content marketing became an obsession. I read books on writing. I received, devoured and critiqued email newsletters and became an advertising critic. I even listened to podcasts.

I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote.

And battled this awful literary constipation where I write a hell of a lot and struggle to hit publish.

The Writer

I write every day. I’ve seen my work in print, I’ve seen it online. I’ve seen it with my own name, and I’ve seen it without.

I am a writer. A fact which would have astounded me when I graduated.

Which is something to remember when you’re dreaming your own dreams.

 

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