Part of maintaining vitality in writing is about learning how to stay on course. Personally I’ve found this difficult. After years of scribbling ideas for novels down, writing short stories, poems, and journals, I finally committed to a particular character that just wouldn’t be silent. That was about ten years ago. I quickly wrote mountains of notes, and began my precious first novel. It grew fitfully amidst a complex life of raising a family, scary problems with one of my children, divorce, and part time jobs. Once the book was finished, I decided it wasn’t good enough, so I embarked on an English degree, with the purpose of then re-writing completely.
When I left uni I felt daunted (it’s not just young students that suffer this). I felt like I’d outgrown the work and went on to other projects. I experienced doubts over my skills, and moved into other full time work. But the need to write wouldn’t be silenced. Whenever I turned away from it, procrastinating because of fear, I always turned back. As A.A. Milne once said: “Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”
This is the main reason for my fear – can I make a living from writing? But the fact that I can’t stop scratching the writing itch tells me that the desire to write is in fact stronger than the fear, and must be given an unencumbered path. Returning to my original novel – honouring that first character seemed the best way to return to the course, so I’m back where I first started (just a little wiser), keeping the words of Ray Bradbury firmly in my mind: “Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as a writer.”