1) That first time you show your work to someone, breath held, eyes shut, heart knocking on your chest. Will they laugh? Smirk? Struggle to soften the blow that your work is rubbish? Be it a relative, friend, writing group or online acquaintance it takes guts to put your work out there. So, whatever the outcome, Congratulations! You’ve done the equivalent of opening your eyes in the dark.
2) That first time – lots of firsts here – you submit your story, be it one thousand or one hundred thousand words long. Why is this scary? Because the result more often than not will be a large brown envelope landing in your hall, bearing those brutal words Not for us. Yet you’ve confronted your fear, you’ve stepped well and truly into the aspiring writer’s Haunted House. One way out is the door of publication and to find this exit you must confront all manner of spooks – the dreaded synopsis, the hellish cover letter, the eternal rewrite, the shattered confidence… It takes a brave – some might say foolish person – to take this path.
3) Next you must hold your nerve and ride the two-faced ghost-train of success. You get an agent, get a contract and your day of publication arrives, yippee! But then, hello scary sales figures and alarming Amazon rankings and a devilish deadline for Book Two. And ultimately you must grapple that ghoulish question – will my contract be renewed?
4) It’s scary how writing stirs her cauldron and casts her spell on your once steady emotions. Now you feel intense envy at fellow authors who write more eloquently, get four book deals or meet Will Smith (you know who you are!) Tears are shed over rejection, high cackles let rip over positive–sounding emails or the production of an occasional bit of superb prose. Up and down, we are at the mercy of this literary mistress. Our happiness is no longer under our own control
5) The night-time terrors. Mine? They revolve around the thought that on my deathbed, I shall still be a struggling writer and a wail will escape my lips as I tot up all the hours I have pursued my self-indulgent dream, and realize that they would have been better spent achieving other things. Like getting fit. Like cooking my family nothing but home-made meals. I could have learnt to wind-surf or kept a tidier house. I could have done volumes of charity work or brought in more income. In other words… I have wasted my valuable time on this earth.
So why do we write? Is it a choice? Can we ever cast aside the demons of this pursuit? I have tried but its seductive song always lures me back, with the promise of great rewards…
Halloween isn’t scary, with its witches and zombies and ghosts. No, far scarier is being lucky enough to discover your calling, but not knowing if you will ever truly do it proud.