Ask any writer – a real writer – why he or she writes, and they’ll reply that they’re born to do it. It’s their destiny, and it’s a dream that they’re not prepared to let go.
I’m one of them, but I’ll only admit to that in writerly circles. While I make a living from writing – from journalism, commercial writing and copywriting – I’m kind of shy about the fact that I harbour ambitions to be an author. Of a novel. Preferably in print, displayed prominently in the front window of Waterstones in London’s Piccadilly.
My daughter says to me now and again: “How do you publish a book, mummy?” as she waves a little wad of folded paper with her little stories and illustrations. She so innocently believes that she can easily spend an hour scribbling and drawing, and then produce a printed, laminated version of her output for everyone to read.
Except why not? In a world of e-publishing, we could easily produce a version to go online. But it’s not the practicalities of her insistence that strike me. It’s the lack of shame or fear or embarrassment about her potential and ability as a writer. I’ve always felt I’ve had to hide mine away for fear of:
- Someone discovering some notes, journals or drafts I’ve written and being offended because I have referred to them.
- Someone laughing/mocking/denigrating my work.
- Discovering that I’ve been kidding myself about my talent.
- Failing. That someone thinks I’m a rubbish writer.
- Bearing my soul and someone hurting it so it retreats back into its shell.
- Like the emperor’s new clothes, someone will point the finger and say my writing is stripped bare and worth nothing; it’s a mere delusion of grandeur.
Except the sad fact and the bare truth is that the ‘someone’ I fear – that outward projection of an internal block/fear/obstacle – is part of me. It’s the very part of me that I need to uncover, manifest and use to infuse my writing with personal power, real understanding, and the confidence and innocence of a child that hasn’t been hurt yet.
But to do that would involve cracking open my shell – a scary task in itself, and no guarantee of finding a pearl within.