This is a story of character development – the arc of a writer.
Chapter one - The age of innocence
When she first found the time to write, Jennifer felt as if she had fallen in love. This chapter was marked by a virginal adoration of all things writing. Words bubbled from the wellspring of her abundant imagination. She danced with her stories in the moonlight. Without much knowledge of what she was doing, Jennifer spread herself along the sofa and scribbled until she had decorated a thousand delicious notebooks. The words came unencumbered by any filthy rules of writing or any fears of publication. In those days, Jennifer was convinced of her own genius, flying on a wave of creativity.
Chapter two - The love of learning
Having sprouted a first draft of a novel, Jennifer decided it was time to get serious. She dashed off to the bookshop on the corner of the High Street and bought a stack of self-help, how-to, guide books. She showed her stories to a dear friend who pointed out that they were crap and insisted that the first drafts should never be inflicted upon another victim, with the possible exception of those compensated by payment for an editorial report. Jennifer was cool about that. She said to herself, I am just a beginner. At least I’ve spared myself the humiliation of those who go for a premature foray into the world of submissions only to receive this feedback directly from agents.
Chapter three – Coming out
It was around this time Jennifer discovered writing as a social activity. It began with a week at an Arvon course, where she had a brief fling with the tutor after an intense feedback session in the pub. The social side of writing carried on with evening classes at the local university and ended with her joining a writing group. She trotted round the literary festivals. Electronic coming out led Jennifer onto a host of internet forums and she became an avid reader of writing blogs. Soon she could count a number of friends who offered her feedback and support and virtual hugs in the face of non-virtual rejection. What joy to learn that all these people loved what Jennifer loved.
Chapter four - The long haul
By now Jennifer knew it wasn't so easy. That first draft had been revised “to within an inch of its life” and success still declined to open its feathery wings. But after reading all those books on writing and attending all those classes and workshops and chatting for hours on the forums, Jennifer’s mantra in her morning meditations was one of commitment. She had heard the exhortations, again and again, to keep going. All the writers who had just landed their first deal said it every time. What’s your top tip for aspiring writers? Don’t give up. So she didn’t. Jennifer ploughed on for another couple of years, forced out another novel. At night she ground her teeth.
Chapter five - The slough of despond
She’d seen it all before. There was no advice on any writing website that she couldn’t write herself. She trawled through the same tired discussions. Publication receded before her eyes, shrinking like a dot on the horizon. She acknowledged that it was the worst time in history to break into this business: the edit-crunch and all that. She imagined her manuscript sliding down the side of the pile, spilling out into the street as part of an avalanche that greeted the literary agent as he opened the front door of the office. There was no point. Writing, that object she had loved with such innocent abandon now seized up her fingers like arthritis. She said she might as well give her attention to something with more chance of success, like playing the lottery, or training for the one hundred metres for 2012.
Chapter six – Rebirth
In which Jennifer, in a hippy-shit epiphany, rediscovers her love for writing by becoming present to the nowness all around her. Something about the colour of the petals on the climbing rose outside her window. I’ll blog about this very soon. I haven’t finished the chapter yet so I can’t report, but all the signs are promising.