Not this one.
I’ve been thinking a great deal over the past few weeks how things change(d). Really, selfishly, specifically about how much I’ve changed over the past few years. So I thought I’d share.
When I started out writing, many years ago, I wanted to be a decent freelance journalist. And I did ok at that. But then I started writing fiction and fell in love with it, despite – and I think this is important – not having a bloody clue what I was doing. I wrote horror at the beginning. Odd things. An awful, awful, AWFUL novel about cloning Jesus (it’s true and if writing it hadn’t made me a better writer I’d almost be ashamed of it). Then I discovered children’s literature. And I think it was at that point that my writing changed. It got better. Actually it got good. And I was starting to be published regularly. I think that editors were prepared to put their name to what I’d produced, that they felt it was good enough, was a hugely important thing for me. That validation gave me confidence.
And then I wrote a children’s book, which was published. I was an author at last. It was then that I started blogging and running workshops – doing different things. Living as a writer, or at least pretending to. I toured the book, met readers. Got to talk about writing to people who were interested in it. I was asked to start a writing group (which is still going). I grew a beard. (Actually the beard growing was an accident: I’d finished an exhausting stint of appearances and, once I’d finished I got back to writing and simply didn’t shave and one day discovered I had a beard.)
The next stage, I think, could well be the most important one, and it provided me with a realisation.
I read Aimee Bender’s Wilful Creatures and I discovered Etgar Keret; both of whom I instantly fell in love with (possibly, as friends might tell you, quite literally in Aimee’s case!). And it was being exposed to these writers (and others), to short stories that made me realise that it was the short form that I loved, and that I naturally leaned towards, even in the longer things I’d written. Everything, structurally, seemed to be short story in shape.
So I gave up on the novel I’d been working on and decided to just write short things for a while. And as soon as I’d done this I remember saying to one of my best friends in writing that it felt like I’d come home. I was comfortable (in a good, not a lazy or complacent, way) and I was having fun. Things fitted. It was all terribly hard work and frustrating (par for the writing course) and rejection filled (par again) but it felt right and natural and, well, good and soon the successes started to come (though not enough and not as quickly as I’d like – so it goes). Also, I think it meant that I understood my writing better, which has helped.
And do you know what occurred to me earlier? In all that time, from pretty much before the blog was born, I’ve not had a rest.
It’s a strange thing looking back at that cocky twenty-two year old greenhorn, with his clean shaven face and bags of energy and confidence, now I’m older and tired and striving to be good as opposed to be published (as I said over at the lovely Caroline Smailes’ blog: I think that writing good stuff will lead to publication anyway and being published is really important to me). And it’s strange to see how much has changed, in my approach to writing, the hours I keep – and personally, in the relationship I lost, the friends I fell out with, the new ones I’ve made, how much I’ve achieved and how much I’ve missed. And, more importantly, how much I’ve learned.
But that’s me. This is what I do. And, as hard as it is, I love it.
I do need a break though. It’s just that there’s so much exciting stuff to do.